Introduction to Tetiaroa:
The mysterious Polynesian island jewel known as Tetiaroa is actually a 4.5 mile wide atoll comprised of 12 motus (small islands) and located just 36.5 miles (59 km) north of Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti.
It is probably most famously known for its now deceased but legendary owner, the charasmatic and moody Hollywood actor, Marlon Brando, although relatively few travelers have ever visited the place. (In actuality, Marlon didn't ever really OWN the place, but rather was privy to a 99 year LEASE to it from the FP government.)
Interestingly, Tetiaroa is still a rather pristine South Pacific getaway, having resisted tourism and development due to its private and exclusive ownership status over the years.
This enchanted atoll is still home to one of Tahiti's only protected bird sanctuaries as well as an intact and healthy surrounding marine environment. A luxury eco-resort called the Brando is slated to open on the atoll in 2013.
Trivia & Quick Points:
Marlon Brando purchased Tetiaroa during the filming of the movie classic "Mutiny on the Bounty" in 1965 .
An eco-resort called The Brando is currently being built on the atoll and scheduled to open in 2013.
"Tetiaroa" is a Polynesian word meaning "who stands apart" or "keeps its distance".
Facts & Information:
Tetiaroa's primary role in Polynesian history has been to play that of a summer residence or private getaway of sorts for the various ruling families and Arii (Chiefs), and kings of Tahiti over the years.
It has always been considered somewhat of a royal playground for the wealthy and high class and there are many stories of privaleged people having stayed on the atoll over the years for varying amounts of time. It is also rumoured to have buried royal treasures hidden there...
Prior to 1831, it was known as Te-Tua-Roa, meaning "high tide", or "the high sea"...
In 1789, three deserters from the Bounty became the first Europeans to visit the island during the ship's 23 week stay in Tahiti. It was after departure that the famous mutiny on the Bounty took place.
In 1904, the royal Pomare family of Tahiti gave the island to dentist Johnston Walter Williams. As a private island it passed through the hands of other owners until 1965, when Marlon Brando, after filming Mutiny on the Bounty, became its new owner.
Marlon Brando & Tetiaroa
Marlon Brando first "discovered" Tetiaroa in the early 1960's while scouting locations for the classic film "Mutiny on the Bounty". (it was on that same shoot that he met his future wife, Tahitian beauty Tarita Teriipaia, who played the lover of his character.)
The combination of magic being worked by the beauty, charm, and solitude of this alluring tropical paradise, along with his new found Tahitian love, Tarita, it seems, proved irresistable to Marlon...
After several failed attempts to buy the island from its owner, Marlon Brando finally succeeded in landing the much sought after 99 year lease contract from the government in 1966, making him the official and legally recognized "owner" of Tetiaroa.
Being a firm protector of the environment, Brando worked to conserve the original charm of this spectacular and peaceful area by resisting largescale commercial developments which were always being presented to him.
Over the years, Marlon Brando came to the island a number of times and used it as a getaway from his hectic life in Hollywood. It is said he always cherished these moments on Tetiaroa, even though he didn't actually spend as much time as he wanted there.
Toward the latter years of his life, things started going a little "off" with Marlon's career and personal life, and as such things often end up doing, Tetiaroa ended up caught in the turmoil.
It is rumored that Brando, who died in 2004, granted his friend Michael Jackson the lifelong use of 2000 m² (a half-acre) on the islet of Onetahi, in the west of Tetiaroa.
Tetiaroa is one of the Windward Islands of the Society Island archipelago in French Polynesia. Administratively, it is considered part of the commune (Tahitian municipality) of Arue.
Its geographic coordinates are 17 degrees, 00 minutes south latitude; 149 degrees, 33 minutes west longitude.
A sunworshippers paradise, the secluded beaches of Tetiaroa are about as good as it gets for those fortunate enough to spend time on them. The atoll's 12 motus are all classic "secluded island" paradises of white sand and coconut trees.
Travel & Tourism:
What to Do & See
Due to its remoteness and lack of development, there is a relatively limited amount of things to do and see on Tetiaroa in comparison to the more populated islands of French Polynesia.
Once arrived, most people who come to Tetiaroa fall into one of 2 categories: They either just want to hang out and relax and head for the nearest coconut tree with a good book, sunscreen, and a daypack, or they want to explore as much as they can before they have to leave.
Almost mandatory sightseeing highlights include going to "Bird Island", one of French Polynesia's only protected sea bird sanctuaries and the largest colony of its kind in all of Polynesia.
Other activities include excellent swimming and snorkeling in the unique lagoon packed full of colorful marine species, and world class Scuba diving for the lucky ones, (not often done because of the fact the nearest scuba outfitter is on Tahiti).
You can also fish on Tetiaroa, get lost in photography, or simply enjoy yourself just walking around.
Visit our What to Do & See section for more details on the activities and sightseeing choices on Tetiaroa.
Where to Stay
For those wanting to stay on Tetiaroa for an extended visit, the news is rather bleak at the moment. For the time being, there are no accomodations available for overnight visitors on Tetiaroa. The only existing hotel ever to operate on the island was owned by Marlon Brando and shut down shortly after his death. It was run by his son, Teihotu, (currently Tetiaroa's only official inhabitant), and its future remains unknown and uncertain.
In its heyday it was known as Hotel Tetiaroa Village, an exclusive place offering rather basic amenities at upscale prices. Its 13 palm thatched "fares" and bungalows were most saught after by wealthy honeymooners and newlyweds.
But for those with patience... the future seems bright.
Construction of the luxury eco-resort The Brando has commenced with the official authorization from the Tahitian government after several years of studying the impact of construction on the environment and is expected to open in 2013. The Brando will feature: 47 deluxe bungalow villas (each with private plunge pools), a spa, fitness center, community pool, as well as various island activities including scuba diving and archaeological tours of royal Tahitian sites and is being overseen by Tahiti Beachcomber SA.
For additional information on The Brando, please visit the resortís official website: tetiaroa.pf
Getting Here & Away
Getting to Tetiaroa is a bit of a process... There is a small runway on one of the motus, but not regularly used by any commercial flight company running today.
Sailing & Boat Charters
The most common way to get to the atoll is by sailing there on your own vessel or hiring one of the charter companies listed for day trips.
See our Tetiaroa Sailing, Boat Charter, & Marine Information section for the listings and more details.
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