Inside Kim Kardashian's birthday island - and why it really is the world's best hideaway

Stanley Stewart
·6 min read
Kim Kardashian posted pictures of herself and family at Brando Island this week - Instagram
Kim Kardashian posted pictures of herself and family at Brando Island this week - Instagram

Despite facing backlash for the very public announcement of her 40th birthday trip, Kim Kardashian and her 'closest inner circle' posted reams of pictures on social media, documenting her celebrations, which took place, according to reports, at The Brando, the private island resort in Tahiti. 

From dance performances to a golden dress and a moonlit dip in the sea, it was nothing if not showy - but this is hardly the first celebrity to be drawn in by the allure of this private island. 

In the 1960s, when Marlon Brando arrived in Tahiti to film Mutiny on the Bounty, he was smitten, first with the islands of French Polynesia - and then with his co-star, the film’s love interest, 20-year-old Tarita Teriipaia. 

He would marry Tarita, in August of 1962 as the film was premiering in London. Two years later, he bought Tetiaroa, an atoll just over 30 miles to the north of Tahiti. 

It was, he said, “more gorgeous than anything I anticipated.”  The marriage lasted ten years, making it one of Brando’s longest relationships. His passion for the atoll lasted a lifetime.  

Tetiaroa was more gorgeous than I had anticipated too, and I had just crossed the Pacific, visiting a dozen dreamy islands on the way. 

The luxury resort that now inhabits the atoll, suitably named the Brando, is one of the most delightful places I have ever stayed. And in celebration of its fifth anniversary recently, it has launched the new Brando Residences; 3-bedroom Polynesian houses just across the lagoon from the main resort.

Each is set within its own grounds, with soaring interiors, a private beach, a pool and staff able to plug into its many facilities. The first has launched and three more will follow over the next 3 years, with an eventual plan for fifteen.

Like Brando himself, Tetiaroa is a one-off - a low-lying atoll in an ocean of mountainous islands. Some five miles wide, it contains twelve tropical islands, some barely larger than a sandbank, others palm-clad paradises a few miles long, most uninhabited. 

The trip was in celebration of her 40th birthday - Instagram
The trip was in celebration of her 40th birthday - Instagram

Protected by a coral reef, the atoll feels like an enclosed world, a parallel universe, somewhere where the usual rules and conditions may not apply. 

In the wide lagoon, turtles nest on empty white beaches, sea birds stalk the shallows, and clouds shadows scud across the aquamarine waters like phantom ships. 

the brando hotel review
the brando hotel review

Barack Obama spent three weeks at the Brando working on his memoirs. It probably seemed a good idea at the time but I can’t imagine how he could have concentrated on the machinations of Washington while gazing at that ravishing ocean framed by gangly palm trees. 

Marlon Brando with Tarita in Mutiny on the Bounty - Getty 
Marlon Brando with Tarita in Mutiny on the Bounty - Getty

For centuries the atoll was a royal retreat for Tahiti chiefs, a private getaway where they went to escape the pressures of Tahiti, and ever since, rumours of buried treasure have haunted these islands.  

Ironically the first European to land on the atoll was probably Captain Bligh. The Bounty mutineers are said to have taken temporary refuge here before heading to the more remote island of Pitcairn.   

Barack Obama the brando review
Barack Obama the brando review

Brando lived on the atoll for several years with Tarita and their children, and later in his life, he returned here as often as he could. It was the one place, he would claim, he found peace. 

He had always dreamed of creating an eco-resort in the atoll with pioneering technologies and a scientific research station that would offer solutions to ecological issues. 

In 1999, Brando asked Richard Bailey of Pacific Beachcomber Hotels to help realise his dream of a luxury resort with near zero carbon emissions. It was not until after his death that these dreams, overseen by the family trust, were fulfilled when the Brando was opened in 2014. 

The atoll is a protected reserve and the resort, inhabiting only two of the 12 islands, sees itself as the steward of this remarkable place. It has sought to maintain the lightest of ecological footprints. 

the brando hotel review
the brando hotel review

Local materials have been used in the design, solar and coconut oil have been utilised for energy, island gardens supply the kitchens with vegetables and fruit, a low energy desalination system provides water and a pioneering deep seawater cooling system runs the air conditioning, always the most energy sapping facility in luxury resorts. 

Most importantly perhaps, the Brando supports two research and conservation bodies, the Tetiaroa Society and Te Mana O Te Moana.

The former provides facilities for scientists and students to conduct research on everything from renewable energy to biodiversity to the preservation of the marine environment. The latter operates an educational outreach program for local people and the wider world.      

The Brando feels like the place for which the phrase ‘barefoot luxury’ was coined; I don’t think I wore shoes for three days. 

the brando hotel review
the brando hotel review

Built of wood, stone and thatch, and tucked away among palm trees with floor to ceiling windows looking out to sea, the 35 villas come in one, two and three bedroom configurations. 

They are spacious, elegant, and impressively understated – think the best of the Maldives before they began showing off with underwater restaurants. Each has a secluded beach front and a private plunge pool on an outdoor deck. 

And seclusion is the byword here, a prerequisite for a resort that attracts so many celebrities. I thought I had the place to myself and was surprised to learn that most of the other villas were occupied. 

The central complex is a cycle ride away along sandy paths, latticed with palm shadows. There is an elevated bar that overlooks the ocean, a Japanese restaurant with the best sashimi in Polynesia and a French restaurant, curated by Michelin starred Parisian chef Guy Martin, that has a wine cellar to impress the most sophisticated sommelier. 

There are tennis courts, a fitness centre, guided nature walks and endless water sports for the active and a library, a boutique and a fabulous spa, brimming with Pacific therapies and hidden away in the jungly interior, for the more sedentary.   

the brando hotel review
the brando hotel review

The Brando is made for daydreaming. It is an escape that feels a world away from everything. Settle into a hammock and listen to the soft rattle of the palm trees and the slow sound of the surf. But probably best not to plan to write your memoirs here.  

One bedroom villas at The Brando start from €2,900 plus taxes a night. Flights to the atoll from Tahiti on Air Tetiaroa are extra. 

All-inclusive rates for the new Brando Residence start from €15,000 plus taxes per night for up to six guests. The accommodation can also accommodate a maximum of two additional children ages 12-17 for €480 night, for a total of 8 guests.

The Residences can be purchased. They start at €6 million. If the owners wish, the property can be managed as part of the resort rental pool. 

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