Joan Larsen’s Travel: Here Comes the Sun… Living a Charmed Life on Marlon Brando’s Private Island

Posted on March 29, 2017


By Joan Larsen

A lifetime ago . . . or so it seems . . . romance was said to begin and end in the paradise of French Polynesia.  And so, with the help and encouragement of then famed author James Michener – a friend who made us believers, my love and I found ourselves landing on the island of Tahiti on an early morn, with the sun just peeking up over the horizon.

A lovely Tahitian woman greeted us fondly as we stepped off that plane, ready to guide us through our island sojourns effortlessly.  Her first words were unforgettable:  “Marlon Brando is between planes, heading to the paradise of islands that he owns here.  Would you like to meet him?”

It was another world back then.  And so Brando found himself face-to-face with a young couple with brilliant red sunburns from a month in the Australian Outback in a time before sunscreen. . . who were speechless.  Truly speechless.

Marlon – well, Marlon mumbled more than spoke as he was always prone to do – and then the moments were over.  Forever.

However, the two of us can still remember those moments with Brando as if it were yesterday.  I am sure you can understand why.

The atoll of Tetiaroa is a turquoise ring of wispy isles that seem to punctuate the South Pacific, close to Tahiti itself.  To the two of us, it seems it has been forever known as Marlon Brando’s private island.  The actor first came here while filming Mutiny of the Bounty in 1962, finding himself falling in love with this island and this world.  He married a Tahitian actress, decided to buy the isles of Tetiaroa – a retreat for Tahitian royalty for centuries – and basked in this world of white-sand beaches, swaying coconut palms, and sparkling lagoons.  And who wouldn’t?  For Brando, Tetiaroa became his second home and a place he viewed in spiritual terms.

This was the place where his ashes would one day be scattered.

And then in 2014, we were first to hear the word that National Geographic Unique Lodges, together with the Brando family, had offered the world an invitation to stay on these atolls.  How could we say no?

Flying in?  A small private plane, of course, but called Air Tetiaroa, from Tahiti – just a hop and a skip really – and we had arrived at The Brando.  This resort has honeymoon written all over it.  Each villa sits alone, a temple of privacy amidst the sea of green foliage.  Your lagoon – as you feel it is yours alone – is turquoise, royal blue, robin’s egg blue, aquamarine, more – and invites you to explore the underwater world at your feet.  And so you do.

Getting around?  In a first for me, bicycles are provided for all guests.

Capturing your private luxury villa in photographs seemed to me the way to go.  And so I did!  I happen to like the plunge pool a lot.  But perhaps it is the bathroom of dreams that made the world of home seem a very long way away!!

If you too believe that an island can be all about escape – and a few waves of luxury can make you feel like a queen for the short time you are there – then welcome to the isles of Tetiaroa . . . . and The Brando.


For a great vacation, just add water.

 – Joan Larsen

Somehow – and more than once – I feel that President Obama is following me around in my travels.  No sooner than my story was ready for print, enticing headlines let us know that the ex-president had just flown in for a 6-week stay at The Brando in Tetioroa.  Alone, at least for now – well, if “alone” counts when you are with massive secret service detail on island and in the surrounding waters.  The Brando is definitely a romantic getaway – big time “romantic”.  But just a guess, but with a $60 million dollar memoir signed, sealed, and “must be delivered soon”, a place hidden from the world may be just the place to begin dictating it – well, in the off hours at the very least.   From one who knows, the island of Tetioroa and the villas that provide a temple to privacy would definitely be the combination of work and play that has it all. I wish him well !


Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”