City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Romeo Balancourt

Featured Article

Investing In Paradise: The Brando

An exclusive resort’s uncompromising embrace of nature and luxury

Nestled on the atoll of Tetiaroa in French Polynesia, a resort is modeling not only the epitome of luxury but also a new standard of contributing and mindful tourism. The Brando is one of the most exclusive and aspirational destinations in the world, with its boutique island vibe and world-famous spa. Less known, however, is the way the resort is turning industry norms on their head and contributing to the preservation of a vital ecosystem. We had a unique opportunity to experience the magic and power of this place firsthand, and what we discovered amazed and delighted us.

The exclusivity and privacy of The Brando is due in no small part to its geography. The Tetiaroa atoll is a short flight from Tahiti and is served by a private airline, Air Tetiaroa, which is the only way to reach the island.

Our first glimpse of Tetiaroa was as it appeared through the clouds, like a sapphire jewel in the middle of the Pacific expanse. The atoll, comprising a dozen small islands surrounding a sparkling lagoon, has a history as rich and vibrant as its lush landscapes. Once a sanctuary for Polynesian royalty, Tetiaroa captivates visitors with its untouched beauty. As the plane descended over the crystal-clear waters of the reef, we were struck by a sense of wonder, a feeling that we were going to experience something transcendent, something that would tie our hearts to the island.

There is something special about this place. From the moment we stepped off the plane and were greeted by the warm and personal resort staff, it became clear that this resort was different. There was more here than just aspirational island relaxation.

The Brando redefines luxury with understated elegance and attention to detail. The resort consists of 35 villas, each set back a few yards from the beachfront for maximum privacy. Each villa offers breathtaking views, immediate access to the beach, and is complemented by a private pool and outdoor dining area. The interior of each expansive villa, which can sleep up to four, is built from local and sustainable materials, with excellent design crafted to meet every need of the guest.

We had stayed at many luxury properties before, but The Brando immediately made an impression. Simple things like being greeted by name everywhere we went, a customized personal schedule for our stay, robes and slippers in our sizes, and fridges and cupboards stocked with all our favorites. All is tailored to delight and make you feel like you belong. Assistant Manager Emmanuel Portelli shared that they study individual guests before they come. “We know what they like, and we know what they’re looking for, so we can build a customized experience for them,” he says.

Architecture is a modern tribute to Polynesian culture, with the Pierre-Jean Picard conceived design offering airflow, open space, and lines that draw you into your surroundings. One of our favorite places was Te Manu bar, with an indoor-outdoor treehouse vibe where you can enjoy a handcrafted drink under the stars. The raised deck seats you among the treetops, and offers unobstructed views of the sunset and the limitless Pacific sky. 

Another stunning architectural feature is the Varua Te Ora spa, one of the foremost spas in the world. Each building or fare evokes a bird’s nest and seamlessly blends into the landscape. These buildings serve as a visible expression of how the spa merges Polynesian tradition with holistic treatments that promote rest, beauty, and well-being. A stay at The Brando includes a daily treatment, so there is plenty of opportunity to relax and unwind in this natural sanctuary.

With a mixture of Polynesian and French flavors, the cuisine at the four resort restaurants is crafted from locally sourced ingredients, ensuring an authentic and sumptuous dining experience. Les Mutinés, the French gastronomic restaurant, is an experience unto itself. The architecture, evocative of the inside of a ship’s hull, builds on the Mutiny on the Bounty theme. Dinner took us on a seven-course journey around the world as we enjoyed each delicate and extravagant dish. For more informal dining, the Beachcomber Café and Nami Teppanyaki offer relaxed and fun settings with food that is both memorable and accessible.

Before we traveled to The Brando, we knew we were going to experience an exclusive and luxurious resort, but upon arriving, we realized there was much more than we bargained for.

The resort gets its name from Marlon Brando, who first learned of the Tetiaroa atoll in 1960 during the filming of his classic Mutiny on the Bounty. Enchanted by its beauty, he purchased the island and for several decades made it his home. As he grew older, he envisioned a paradise that honors its past while embracing the future. Upon his death, the new owner Richard Bailey resolved to fulfill Brando’s vision, and the construction of the resort began in 2010 and opened in 2014.

One of the most striking features of The Brando is that it is the world's first resort to obtain the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Certification, the US Green Building Council’s highest award. To obtain this award, every part of the resort, from villas to public and operational buildings, had to meet strict requirements. The entire resort is cooled by Seawater Air Conditioning, utilizing icy deep ocean water for thermal control. Power on the atoll comes from solar farms. All food waste is composted and used to enrich the soil. The resort is getting close to the ultimate goal: true carbon neutrality.

More than that, The Brando has become a catalyst for the regeneration of Tetiaroa’s unique and stunning ecology. Founded before the first guests arrived, the Tetiaroa Society nonprofit is dedicated to the restoration of the atoll. This reflects Marlon Brando’s original vision. He said, “It is my hope that the island will serve as an ecological model … not only a tourist preserve but a marine preserve as well, a place for all manner of scientific research and investigation ….”

Since the Tetiaroa Society's inception, Executive Director Frank Murphy and his team have been working tirelessly to restore the atoll to pre-human conditions. “Our job is basically to protect and preserve the island,” Frank says. Funded by donations and profits from the resort, the Tetiaroa Society boasts a world-class research facility, hosting scientists from around the world. Their efforts have included the eradication of rats on the motus, resulting in the return of all the native bird species and a surge in the turtle population. Additionally, a progressive mosquito population control project has been trialed on the atoll, with the result that the resort is mosquito-free.

A highlight of our stay was a three-hour guided tour of the atoll, which included a cruise across the lagoon and a stroll across one of the uninhabited motus. Tihoni Maire, Tetiaroa Society’s head guide, shared how the conservation efforts are changing the landscape. As we cruised through the azure waters, Tihoni shared, “We want to have respect for the environment that the environment becomes part of us.”

Though we weren’t expecting it, this became our experience. Our stay at The Brando became about more than luxurious relaxation. We swept up into participating in something greater, the experience and preservation of a gem that will last for generations to come. A place this magical and this beautiful should be preserved and restored. It’s a treasure to the world, and to all who experience its beauty and life. 

We can be part of making a real difference, investing in the future, and giving back to the places that bless and restore us.

So much of the tourism world is about extraction. What can we receive from the places we visit? The experience, the food, the culture, the relationships, and the memories, all are wonderful things to take. But the tourism industry tends to extract, often at great cost to the local environment and culture. We feel this tension when we travel, not only the joy of experiencing new things but also the question of wondering at the cost.

Tetiaroa is different. The Brando, together with the Tetiaroa Society, is showcasing a new and better way for the world. A way where the best in tourism can also be the best in ecology and honoring of culture. A way where our investment in family, love, and memories doesn’t feel like a compromise in values. 

We left The Brando feeling that we had been part of truly contributing. The atoll is a better place because of the resort, and we have been brought into that story. The magic and wonder left an indelible imprint on us. We will be back, not just to receive, but to give. And we will bring others with us. 

“Come and see what we're doing,” says Frank Murphy. “It's not just about staying in a beautiful villa. It's about coming and seeing what's possible.”

For more details, visit

"It is my hope that the island will serve as an ecological model."

"We want to have respect for the environment that the environment becomes part of us."

  • Romeo Balancourt
  • Tim McKenna
  • Romeo Balancourt
  • Randy Yansaud
  • Tim McKenna
  • Tim McKenna
  • Romeo Balancourt
  • Randy Yansaud
  • Odieux Boby
  • Odieux Boby
  • Randy Yansaud
  • Johan Drone Adventure
  • Randy Yansaud