Tetiaroa, best known as legendary actor Marlon Brando’s private island, was once considered a playground for the wealthy. This atoll served as a summer residence for the former chiefs and kings of Tahiti. Currently inaccessible to the general public, a new eco-friendly, ultra-luxurious resort, The Brando Resort, is set to open in July and will soon change that.
The Brando Resort
above: an aerial view of one of the villas at The Brando set to open in July 2014
Marlon Brando became enamored with French Polynesia when scouting the islands for his 1962 movie, Mutiny on the Bounty. While on location, he also fell in love with his third wife, Tarita Teriipia, the Tahitian beauty who starred alongside him in the film (shown below). In an effort to keep the islands close at heart, Brando sought to purchase his own section of paradise—and he set his sights on Tetiaroa.
Tetiaroa was a highly desirable piece of land. The atoll once belonged to the royal family and was subsequently passed through the hands of many private owners; thus, Brando’s negotiations were met with much resistance. In 1966, after several failed attempts, he finally landed the 99-year lease that granted him exclusive “ownership” of Tetiaroa.
Over the years, Tetiaroa served as a secluded hideaway from his life in the Hollywood spotlight. The atoll had remained a pristine South Pacific paradise—and Brando sought to keep it that way. His lifelong dream was to maintain the atoll in its purest condition and allow others to enjoy it. He pictured a sustainable, ecological habitat; and although he died ten years ago, his dream will soon be realized. Spearheaded by Richard Bailey of Tahiti Beachcomber, Bailey was a longtime friend of Marlon’s and had been working with him on the project for years.
above: Actor Marlon Brando with a model of his dream resort for the island
In line with the actor’s vision, the Pacific Beachcomber Group has been developing the Brando Resort, which aims to be the most luxurious eco-friendly resort on the planet.
It is currently being built to the highest environmental standards and plans to receive its LEED Platinum Certification, the highest accolade from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The resort will also be 100% energy independent. Electricity requirements will be met by a combination of solar panels (35%) and generators fueled by coconut oil (20%), while revolutionary technology known as seawater air conditioning (SWAC) will use deep seawater to cool the rooms efficiently and economically.
The Brando Resort is set to open in July of this year. It will combine luxury and environmental sustainability for one of the finest eco-friendly resorts in the world. Located on the Tetiaroa atoll, also known as Marlon Brando’s private island, this resort is meant to carry out his vision and his legacy. It will be 100% energy independent and support a number of research and conservation initiatives.
What Makes It Eco-Friendly?
At the Brando, they have implemented a number of innovative programs and new technologies to help achieve their goal of carbon neutrality:
• Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) harnesses the cold of the ocean depths to provide low-energy, highly efficient cooling for all the buildings, reducing energy demands by almost 70%.
• Solar energy produced from photovoltaic solar panels along the airstrip provide over half of the resort’s remaining energy needs (showing how to make typically unused space like this productive) and solar heating provides all of the resort’s hot water.
• A coconut oil (biofuel) power station provide the other half of the resort’s energy needs. Fueled by locally produced coconut oil, this renewable power source will also support the local economy.
• Flow-batteries for storage of energy generated from solar power are made primarily from recyclable materials and have a service life of thousands of deep discharge cycles.
Sea Water Air Conditioning
The Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) takes advantage of the cold naturally stored in deep ocean water by running the deep ocean water throughout the resort and using it to create the cold for our air conditioning system.
It’s a simple idea—but one that took many years to put into effect. A man ahead of his time (and always curious about outside-the-box ideas), Marlon Brando had heard of the principle as early as the early 1970s. He dreamed of making sea water cooling a reality on Tetiaroa for aquaculture—specifically, the farming of lobsters. He suggested the idea of SWAC to Richard Bailey when the two were trying to resolve the dilemma of relying on renewable energy without compromising on luxury. Richard Bailey’s company Pacific Beachcomber then conceived, developed and installed the world’s first air-conditioning system using SWAC. Brando did not live to see this pioneering idea become a reality, but his vision led to the system we have today.
On Tetiaroa, those behind The Brando are committed to keeping the wildlife thriving, the air we breathe clean, and the lagoon pristine. Toward that end, they have set a goal of net zero carbon impact. They are proud to say they are coming close to achieving that ambitious goal with the resort.
To reduce or eliminate guest travel-related carbon emissions, all their vehicles will ultimately be powered by the sun and they will provide bicycles to all their guests as an option for moving around the island. In addition, they plan to propose a carbon-offset purchase program for inter-island transportation. They encourage you to purchase carbon offsets for your international flights.
The resort has an organic garden nestled under shade providing palm trees. Most of the fruits and vegetables used in the resort will come from this garden. When visiting you can see firsthand how they grow vegetables and fruit on this sun-drenched sand-and-coral island. They have implemented some innovative farming techniques that they will be pleased to share with you, if you so desire.
A Research Station for conservation, education and outreach
The Brando Resort is also being built with the support of the Tetiaroa Society, a local organization dedicated to the research, education and conservation of the atoll. The society will manage a research center on the resort grounds, providing scientists from around the world a place to gather and conduct biodiversity research. It will also fund educational programs for students, visitors and residents.
In pursuit of his dream, they have established a Research Station on the island—a kind of think tank where scientists and researchers from around the world can gather not only to preserve Tetiaroa, but also to help tropical islands everywhere find their own path to sustainable development. It is a cornerstone of the project Brando envisioned but was unable to complete.
The Research Station on Tetiaroa consists of two buildings: one with wet and dry laboratories for research and the other providing accommodations for the scientists and researchers.
Pacific Beachcomber, a key partner in The Brando, has entrusted the operation of the Research Station to Tetiaroa Society, a nonprofit scientific and cultural organization dedicated to the global understanding and wise management of tropical island socio-ecosystems.
To learn what else the resort plans in terms of the environment and sustainability, go here.
The Brando Resort will feature 35 private villas located along the coast of Motu Onetahi, set back from the beach for maximum privacy. Each one will be carefully designed with comfortable furnishings and deluxe amenities including a private pool. The resort will offer two gourmet restaurants, two hotel bars, a luxurious overwater spa, and an organic fruit orchard and vegetable garden.
• 30 One Bedroom Villas (2 Adults, or 2 Adults and 2 Children):
One Bedroom Villas are designed with a harmonious indoor and outdoor configuration. They feature a king size bed, a media room, a comfortable sitting area furnished with soft chairs and sofas, a private plunge pool, and a bathroom with an outdoor bathtub.
• 4 Two Bedroom Villas (4 Adults, or 2 Adults and 2 Children):
The Two bedroom Villas feature a two-story layout with a kitchen and dining area, media room, sitting area furnished with soft chairs and sofas, two-tiered deck, private plunge pool, and a bathroom with an outdoor bathtub.
• One Three bedroom Villa (6 Adults, or 4 Adults and 2 Children):
The exclusive Three Bedroom Villa, located on Mermaid Bay, features a swimming pool and private access to a white sand beach. It includes all the features of the Two Bedroom Villa, but on an even larger scale. Separated from the main villa is the third bedroom, which includes its own dressing room, bathroom and outdoor bathtub.
All stays at The Brando include: luxurious accommodations; all meals in all dining venues (select deluxe items also available at an additional charge); most beverages (bottled water, soft drinks, beer, and select wines, Champagne, and spirits); 24-hour dining in the privacy of your villa; 1 excursion per person per day from a select list of options; 1 spa treatment (50 minutes) for 1 person per villa per day; laundry service; internet access; 1 bicycle per guest; access to an outrigger canoe, kayak, and paddleboard; and snorkeling equipment.
Varua Polynesian Spa is a natural haven of serenity nestled on the shores of a soothing pond in the heart of Motu Onetahi. Within this setting you can enjoy the finest holistic treatments inspired by ancient Polynesian traditions coupled with modern techniques.
The spa includes private massage and treatment villas around the pond, steam baths, a tea and relaxation lounge overlooking the pond, a yoga shelter and a special spa suite for couples high up in the palm trees.
The resort’s two restaurants showcase Polynesian-inspired dishes, East/West fusion and classic French cuisine. The award-winning cuisine of Guy Martin of the Michelin two star restaurant Le Grand Véfour in Paris is featured in both dining venues and in-room dining.
At all of their dining venues you will enjoy the freshest of ingredients. The chef will select for the day’s dishes organically grown fruits and vegetables from our own gardens and orchards. These may include mangos, papayas, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, avocados, breadfruit, bananas, limes, watermelon and more. They feature fish and shellfish from Polynesian waters.
Thier beachfront restaurant offers exceptional lagoon and ocean views, whether you decide to dine indoors or on the beach. Dishes include a varied menu of Polynesian-inspired dishes alongside classic French cuisine.
Fine Dining Restaurant
This intimate venue features elegant décor in beautiful tones of tropical light and sand and a moat that surrounds the restaurant provides the sensation of floating on a lagoon. The restaurant also includes a world-class wine cellar in a carefully climate-controlled glass enclosure. A menu with the same regard for flavor and quality that has made Le Grand Véfour one of the most respected dining establishments in Paris is showcased.
Located on the second floor, this open-air bar features spectacular views of the lagoon, distant motus and sunsets. In addition to the main lounge, there are several private tree-top seating areas that can be reached on walkways through the palm canopy.
This is a relaxed and casual setting on the beach for conversation and making friends. The bar is named for Marlon Brando’s factotum on film sets. At the end of many days, Brando and Bob would wind up at the bar for long talks and laughs. We have named the bar in honor of Bob and all others who have worked, and continue to work, anonymously to bring Brando’s visions to life.
You can enjoy a meal whenever you want, 24 hours a day, at your villa—either indoors, on your private deck alongside your pool, or on the beach in front of your villa.
Tetiaroa is part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. This small, secluded atoll is located 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Tahiti and considered an extension of the Arue commune. Fittingly, the island name is a Polynesian word meaning “stands apart” or “at a distance.” The inner lagoon, which is only 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) wide, is completely enclosed and protected by 13 surrounding coral islets.
Access to The Brando is by Air Tetiaroa which operates daily fifteen minute flights from Papeete. Flights operate from Papeete to Tetiaroa at 8:30AM or 2:30PM and return to Papeete at 11AM or 4PM. A minimum 2 hour connection is recommended for inter-island flights and a 3 hour connection is recommended for international flights.
Tetiaroa is a delicate atoll with a rich history and strong spirit. Although once very regal, it offers the most humbling experience in French Polynesia. By hardly leaving a carbon footprint on the earth, this tiny locale will leave a lasting impression on your heart.