In our digital editions
Click here for a short video
showing highlights of The Brando.
(See page 12 for details.)
Brando’s Tahitian island retreat is a luxurious ecological wonder
didn’t destroy the nature, or the essence of the
Brando’s vision—like almost everything
else the actor did in his life—went against conventional wisdom. “He didn’t want just another
resort,” says Bailey. “For example, he never
wanted to build over-water bungalows. He
wanted visitors to his island to have the same
experience he had when he first saw it—to be
able to walk around the entire island without
any visual or physical obstruction. He wanted
to keep the entire island in its natural state.”
© THE BRANDO
And then there were Brando’s nonnegotiable environmental concerns, which made
him way ahead of his time.
By Peter Greenberg
MORE THAN A half century ago, Marlon
Brando seduced us—as moviegoers—with the
magic, the light and the romance of French
Polynesia, in Mutiny on the Bounty.
the island to remain barely visible from the sea.
At the same time, back in 1962, the South
Pacific also seduced Marlon Brando.
But don’t think that the resort is an obsessively eco-politically correct, rustic bare-mini-mum destination. On the contrary, the villas
and bungalows have plunge pools, media
rooms, giant flat-screen TVs, private yards and
“The entire island is fossil-fuel-free,” says
Bailey. “We use alternative renewable energy. If
you can imagine an island of total luxury
essentially off the power grid, then that’s
Tetiaroa. Brando believed something that most
of us didn’t think possible—that you could sus-tainably run a resort and still deliver a truly
When the actor first came to the small,
4.5-acre island of Tetiaroa, once a retreat for
Polynesian chiefs and royalty, he realized that
it was more than just a quiet place to get away
from it all. It was a secluded private Polynesian
hideaway where he could have it all:
untouched, palm-fringed beaches, stunning
turquoise water and an almost endless display
of coral, fish and spectacular marine life. He
decided to buy it, stay there and build his own
very private paradise.
“My mind is always soothed when I imagine myself sitting on my South Sea island at
night,” he once said. “And if I have my way,
Tetiaroa will remain forever a place that
reminds Tahitians of what they are and what
they were centuries ago.”
Twenty-five hundred solar
energy panels power everything.
That even includes air conditioning, but not through normal
means. “Brando was convinced
we could provide air conditioning without consuming huge
amounts of electrical power,” says
Bailey. “He put me in touch with
a scientist he knew in Hawaii,
and, sure enough, we found a
way to do it.” The solution? Pump
in deep sea water (which maintains much colder temperatures)
and use that very cold water to
provide air conditioning. And
that water comes in at such a low
energy surge that the solar
energy can support it.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT LAWRENCE GROBEL
Marlon Brando (above) had ideas about environmental protections and safeguards for his island
(top) that were way ahead of his time.
The Brando, a resort
Brando died in 2004, and no one quite
knew what would happen with his island. But
then, last year, on the 10th anniversary of his
death, the very private Tetiaroa reopened as
The Brando, a resort. It is, to a substantial
extent, preserved the way Brando wanted it.
Yes, there are 35 beachfront villas, but this is far
from your typical beachfront resort. It’s truly a
green destination, in both actions and words.
And the villas are low to the ground, allowing
beach access. And, for those Type A’s who desperately need connectivity, Wi-Fi. There are
two restaurants: one with Polynesian-inspired
dishes, the other with east-west fusion and
French cuisine. Personal motorized watercraft?
Forbidden. But there are kayaks and canoes.
Each evening, guests have the option to
hear lectures about the environment. There are
also special day trips to the small uninhabited
islands nearby to visit the wildlife there.
Tetiaroa even has its own research center.
Uncrowded? Absolutely. Quiet and pristine? Yes. And perhaps the best indication of
The Brando’s true seduction: If you’re walking
along the beach looking for footprints in the
sand, you just need to look behind you.
Because chances are the only footprints you’ll
see are the ones you just made. C
The Costco Connection
Costco Travel offers packages to The Brando
and other exceptional resorts throughout
the Islands of Tahiti. Click Travel at Costco.
com or call 1-877-849-2730.
“This is the most different experience I’ve
ever had in the hotel business,” says owner Dick
Bailey, a hotelier who lives in Tahiti and became
Brando’s friend 16 years ago. “This idea of a
resort came out of a conversation I had with
Marlon back in 1999. He had a very specific
vision of what he wanted to do with his island.”
True to his larger-than-life movie image,
Brando made Bailey an offer he couldn’t
refuse: the opportunity to build a resort that
OCTOBER 2015 ;e Costco Connection 91
Peter Greenberg is the multiple Emmy Award–
winning travel editor for CBS News and host of
The Travel Dectective on public television
10/26/15 3:41 PM