French Polynesia is one of the most spectacular places on the planet. Yes, it’s well-known for honeymooners, but forget all that. Speaking personally, I find it empowering to achieve your travel bucket list purely because it’s what your heart desires.

Among the many bungalows-on-stilts options found in French Polynesia — and there are tons — The Brando stands out due to its dedication to environmental stewardship through a partnership with an on-site ecological nonprofit. It doesn’t hurt that some of our favorite celebritie love visiting the remote luxurious private island in the South Pacific (30 miles north of Tahiti)… or that it’s mosquito-free due to a sterilization program.

I recently spent a week lapping in luxury with daily cultural and wildlife excursions around the Tetiaroa Atoll where The Brando is based and loved every moment — even the rainy ones, which I made the most of in my private outdoor bubble bath. Read my full review of the property below.


solar panels
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

Since its opening a decade ago, Beyoncé, Leonardo DiCaprio, Britney Spears, President Barack Obama, Margot Robbie, Pete Davidson, and more have visited The Brando. But this resort is so much more than an A-List celebrity’s favorite private island resort in French Polynesia — it’s one of the most luxurious eco-resorts on Earth. The Brando showcases how luxury tourism can foster research programs to protect endangered species without negatively impacting an opulent experience for guests.

Late actor Marlon Brando, who shot scenes for “Mutiny on the Bounty” in French Polynesia, leased the atoll for 99 years to create a sustainable haven. The property, named in his honor, opened in 2014 and does exactly that, with a core mission of sustainable hospitality. The Brando has a long list of eco-achievements including being the first resort in the world to obtain LEED Platinum certification. Other eco projects include airstrip solar panels for energy and hot water heating, as well as the Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) system which pulls frigid deep sea water from 3,000 feet below the surface for cooling purposes. These efforts have reduced the energy demand by nearly 70%. Wastewater is used for sustainable irrigation.

And there’s no room for greenwashing — the hotel’s efforts are verified by third parties such as Beyond Green, a global portfolio of planet Earth’s most sustainable properties.

Guests can join the complimentary Green Tour to see first-hand all of the green projects that make The Brando a global leader in sustainable accommodations. The tour is led by guides from the on-site Ecostation operated by the Tetiaroa Society — a non-profit with conservation, research, educational, and guided programs. Scientific scholars conduct research programs on the atoll including coral reef ecology, a green sea turtle conservation program, coral and fish replenishment in the on-site lagoon, an ocean acidification program, and mosquito population control. The Tetiaroa Atoll Restoration Program is an ongoing initiative focusing on the removal of invasive species, such as rats, to restore seabird populations in turn establishing the Tetiaroa Atoll as a sanctuary for seabirds, green sea turtles, and coconut crabs.


veg curry
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

As expected, the world-class resort has an exceptional food and beverage program. French Chef Jean Imbert fuses Polynesian and French flavors. There’s also a traditional Japanese teppanyaki grill at Nami, which also serves sushi. It’s a tiny restaurant with only select seats available around the grill so be sure to reserve your dinner here in advance.

Les Mutinés is a unique dining experience — the restaurant is set inside a ship-like building to bring to life the “Mutiny on the Bounty ” maritime adventure that Brando starred in. The fine dining tasting menu is inspired by the famed ship’s travels and is a multi-dimensional sensory experience. I loved the dessert of chocolates in a treasure trove. Have an after-dinner drink at the elevated Te Manu Bar.

By day enjoy some of Marlon Brando’s favorite cocktails at Bob’s Bar — named after the bar where Marlon used to throw a few back. The ‘Dirty Old Bob’ is the signature cocktail made with whiskey, honey, pineapple, lime, mint, and egg whites. I loved the Polynesian Old Fashioned with rum, ginger, spicy honey, and chocolate bitters. The cocktails are included in your stay so make your way through the whole menu during your time at The Brando. As it’s a humid destination, stay hydrated with a daily fresh coconut.

You can have lunch at the bar or by the pool enjoying dishes like sandwiches, curries, and burgers. The casual Beachcomber Cafe is also open for lunch and serves South Pacific culinary staples. Additionally, you can order room service any time of day — I enjoyed breakfast in my private outdoor dining area each morning.

If you feel peckish during the day don’t worry, your room mini bar, which is included in the price, is restocked frequently with everything from coconut chips to mini bottles of Champagne.


Courtesy of The Brando

The Brando is the epitome of barefoot luxury. I truly left my shoes behind while staying here — you can get anywhere on the motu (local word for islet) on foot by following the paved paths or walking on the sandy shore. But if you’re going to take one of the beach cruiser bicycles that come with each guest room, be smart and wear closed-toe shoes. Accidents happen, even in paradise!

Varua, meaning “soul,” perpetuates the wellness tradition established on the island by the royal family who would vacation here and undergo beauty and relaxation rituals. Varau Spa is surrounded by a tranquil lagoon and brings nature into all elements of the treatment experience from birds-nest-shaped changing rooms to open-air shalas and natural local ingredients to traditional Polynesian wellness experiences.

Treat yourself to a spa treatment in a private villa. It is as close to life-changing as spa treatments get.


private pool
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

The all-inclusive resort features 36 villas equipped with a private beach area, a private plunge pool, a private outdoor tub, and a beach hammock tied between the palms making The Brando the epitome of luxurious exclusivity. Encircled by a coral reef, all villas are ocean-facing and have a house reef.

I stayed in a one-room villa that was larger than any apartment I’ve ever lived in. I honestly didn’t even utilize the separate living room, complete with a sitting area, a large desk, and a TV. I tried to be outside enjoying the beach and sunshine as much as possible. The massive one-bedroom has a dining area, a couch, and a separate bedroom with a walk-through dressing area that adjoins the bedroom to the massive bathroom with a waterfall shower, two sinks, and an outdoor private bathtub.

Throughout the villa, decor elements are rooted in nature from the dark wood bed frame to the exposed thatch roof.


cultural class
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

There’s an extensive program of complimentary Polynesian cultural experiences at The Brando and I strongly suggest folding as many of them as you can into your itinerary as it helps deepen the understanding and connection of this special part of the world. The cultural exchange program includes a hybrid Ori Tahiti dance and To’ere, and Pahu drum classes.

Prefer to use your hands? Book the ancestral coconut palm weaving demonstration or learn how to dye and tie a pareo.

Try to pull yourself away from your private dipping pool to get out in the ocean — you can snorkel right from the beach outside of your villa. Paddleboards and canoes are also available. Book the Archeological Tour to zip around the island by bicycle with a naturalist guide who will tell you about French Polynesia’s history as they show you sacred ancestral sites around the island including places of worship.


sea scrub
Courtesy of Lola Méndez

Tahitian royalty used to vacation on the Tetiaroa Atoll which is easy to understand as the atoll still retains its pristine white sand beaches and crystalline waters. Included in your stay are several aquatic adventures. Don’t miss the Tetiaroa Ultimate Tour which stops at a natural bay where Polynesian queens once bathed and scrubbed their skin with the ultra-soft white sand — dubbed the “Billionaire’s Pool” by DiCaprio. There are also snorkeling tours to see marine life including black-tip reef sharks.

Most trips to the luxury resort include an overnight at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa due to the timings of international flights. Make the most of your stopover and stay in the only overwater bungalows on the island of Tahiti and attend the dinner show — you’ll be mesmerized by the cultural performance. Dinner is a buffet and not all that exciting but the performance is spectacular and it would be a shame to visit Polynesia without seeing traditional Polynesian dance.


1 bed villa
Courtesy of The Brando

Would I sound too dramatic if I said it’s the best bed I’ve ever slept in? Comparing it to a cloud wouldn’t even do this bed justice — it was if it was specifically formulated for my body. You shouldn’t expect less for a bed that costs several thousand dollars a night to sleep in. I loved that when I woke up in the morning I could simply press a button to automatically raise the curtains and see directly out into the lagoon without getting out of the king-sized bed.

Rating: 10/10


People Magazine
People Magazine

Let’s just say that Britney Spears tends to get naked and frolic around The Brando and share pictures of herself enjoying the luxe hideout in her birthday suit on her currently defunct Instagram account. She also shot a recent People Magazine cover there. That’s how seriously they take privacy here. During my stay, there was only one time that someone walked past my villa on a beach stroll. French legislation is applied in the French territories so laying out topless is essentially legal and I felt comfortable doing so at my private pool. French laws being in effect in French Polynesia is also why the destination is considered queer-friendly as same-sex marriage is legal in France, and therefore in French Polynesia as well.

There’s also a private outdoor tub (that is fenced in) which is très sexy, if I may say so myself.

Rating: 10/10


Courtesy of Lola Méndez

With endless stretches of aquamarine waters and silky soft white sand there aren’t many parts of the private island paradise that aren’t photogenic. I enjoyed capturing moments of the cultural exchange experiences mentioned above and the day tours. As the queens once did, I scrubbed myself with the silky white scrub — and asked my guide to take a picture of me doing so. I didn’t do as Kim Kardashian did and climb the tree that’s somehow stuck in the middle of the bay — it’s covered in aquatic life so it’s best to avoid touching it.

Rating: 10/10


Courtesy of Lola Méndez

I regretted not planning my trip around one of my dream bucket list experiences — to swim with humpback whales!

French Polynesia is one of the only places in the world where it’s legal to do so and I trust that The Brando would lead a tour that prioritizes the whale’s wellbeing. Learn from my mistake, if you dream of swimming with whales plan your visit between August and October. For a chance to see sea turtles nesting and the release of sea turtle hatchlings visit between September and May. I got to partake in a dawn release of sea turtles — something I’ve done dozens of times and still fills me with delight. Beyond wildlife, the best season to visit for the best weather is in the summer from July to October.


Courtesy of Lola Méndez

The food options are going to feel pretty repetitive if you have dietary restrictions like I do. For such a hefty-priced resort, it’s a shame they don’t provide more variety for plant-based eaters. But the dishes I did have were fantastic, even if I ended up eating some of the same things every day, a bit of a bummer when you’re on vacation.


Rates start at $4,910 per night for two guests and are all-inclusive. I know that seems astronomical but when you break it down per person and consider the ultra-luxury accommodation, all of the included tours, and the endless cocktails $2,455 a night per person seems understandable. There’s a two-night minimum and currently, if you book four nights, the fifth night is free.


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