Tahiti - and more specifically, French Polynesia, is the closest far away place in the world - 8 hours flight from Los Angeles and a world away. I fell in love with these islands on my first visit, when I took a marine biology course. Part of the course was spent on Marlon Brando’s island of Tetiaroa, a 20 minute flight from Papeete, Tahiti. Marlon Brando bought this atoll as his own paradise. He believed in educating people about their environment, the oceans, the natural environment. I spent three days in a rustic hut, exploring the reef and motus (little islands which make up the atoll.) I’ve always dreamed of going back, but until now it was not possible.
Tetiaroa is now home of The Brando, a luxury all-inclusive resort of 35 villas. Brando’s presence is felt through the resort’s sensitivity to the environment, with sustainable energy systems, a focus on the protection of marine wildlife and the hosting of scientists and researchers.
The Brando captures the spirit of these beautiful islands. There are no overwater bungalows - this is by design. Each villa is nested among trees along the beach. Most villas are one bedroom, with a few two- and three-bedroom villas. Entering my one-bedroom villa, the living room looks out upon a deck with an infinity plunge pool, outdoor dining area, white sand beach and the endless turquoise of the lagoon.
When I could tear my eyes away I explored the rest of the villa. To the right is the bedroom with a window looking out to the beach. There is a pop up television. Behind the bedroom is a dressing room with plenty of closet space and a spacious bathroom with outdoor soaking tub. To the left of the living room is the media room with desk, internet hook ups, sofa bed and another television. The internet service here was the best I’ve ever experienced in all my visits to the various resorts in Tahiti and French Polynesia. Each bungalow comes with two bicycles per bedroom. If you don’t want to ride a bike or walk, just pick up the phone and someone will come in a golf cart.
The central area of the resort has two bars, Bob’s Bar outside as well as an upstairs bar open in the evenings, with pool table, marvelous views and Tahitian singers. (The music is performed by staff members.) There are also two restaurants - a fine dining venue called Les Mutineers, in tribute to Mutiny on the Bounty. The more casual dining is at The Beachcomber. The chef was trained by the Michelin star chef of Le Grand Vefour and has added his own special dishes.
Most often we would have breakfast and lunch at our own villa, sitting outdoors under the shelter of our palapa. The villas are so quiet and for the most part, private, although other guests can stroll down the beach in front of villas. The meals and drinks are mostly all inclusive - room service as well as all the restaurant and bar outlets are included at any time, but there are some premium beverages available. Guests are able to order off the menu and if the chef has the ingredients, he will make anything requested. Everything we ordered was served with perfection - the menu was sophisticated and inventive.
The spa was lovely, set on an interior part of the motu on a lily pond. The changing rooms and some of the treatment rooms are made to look like bird’s nests with entwined branches. A few of the treatment rooms are in the only overwater bungalows on the island - as they sit over the lily pond. The treatments are wonderful! Each villa comes with one treatment per bedroom per day. More treatments can be purchased.
The tariff also includes one excursion per day. We took the “ultimate tour” of Tetiaroa, with one of the naturalists from the organization called Te Mana O Te Moana, (Spirit of the Ocean),s a non profit group focused on marine wildlife protection. We went out in a state of the art motorboat and explored the atoll. During the morning we saw whales jumping just outside the reef - putting on a show! We walked on an uninhabited motu full of birds, hermit crabs as big as a fist, relics of the past such as parts of a marae.
We snorkeled; we saw sting rays, eagle rays, and when a manta ray passed beneath us, we jumped into the lagoon with our guide to swim after it. Incredible! Our guide took us to the baby shark “nursery” where little sharks hang out in warm, shallow water. We swam in the “billionaire’s bathtub,” translucent calm water which was irresistable. The day was fabulous and unforgettable.
The water toys at the resort include stand up paddle boards, kayaks, outriggers, snorkel gear. There are water fitness classes as well as a combination of yoga fitness offered each day. There is plenty to do, but what I loved most was just soaking up the spirit of Tahiti - walking on the beach, floating in the lagoon, dining when I wished, no worries about anything.
The per night cost for a one bedroom villa which holds two adults and can hold up to two children under 12, is 3000euro per night. After experiencing The Brando, I do not feel this is at all out of line, and is in line or even less when compared to the other luxury resorts when you take into consideration all the inclusions.
There are plans for private residences eventually, which will be built along one side of the motu.
This trip was my 15th time traveling to French Polynesia - these islands are close to my heart and always call me back. The Brando has become my new favorite, replacing The Hotel Bora Bora, which I have been missing since it’s closure several years ago. The Brando is hitting all the right notes.