Polynesian Paradise – The Brando

By Rona Berg / November 16, 2017
Brando Resort

Text and Photography by Rona Berg

At The Brando, on a secluded private island in French Polynesia, coconut and tiare, along with other beautiful local fruits and flowers,
work wonders at the spa

On the beautiful tropical paradise that is Tetiaroa, Marlon Brando’s private island in French Polynesia, the Varua Te Ora Spa at The Brando Resort is an exquisite reminder of what a truly great spa can be.

Recent visitors to The Brando, a 20-minute flight on the resort’s private plane from Tahiti, have included President Barack Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp, who all support Brando’s vision for a culturally rich, sustainable, environmentally protective luxury destination, where naturalists conduct research and study coral reefs, bird species and more, while guests enjoy the beauty of this extraordinary place.

According to Spa Director Tehani MacInnis, in Tahitian, “Varua” translates to “the soul,” and “Te ora” means “to heal.” “The meaning is ‘the healing soul,’” she says, and that is just what happens here, with signature treatments like the Taurumi massage.

The Taurumi is a traditional Polynesian massage, where the therapist follows the energy lines of the body. “True Polynesian massage starts with the head—where everything starts,” says MacInnis, “and it always ends at the fingers and toes, where the body ends and where you can take bad energy out of the body.” According to MacInnis, massage is a birthright here. “When a baby is born, it is massaged every day,” she says. “It’s a way for Polynesians to feel cared for, to keep the child relaxed and always be in touch with the love of family members and in touch with your own body. Massage, for Polynesians, is love.”

Natural indigenous oil blends are an important part of the ritual. To mix the oils, mothers and grandmothers pluck flowers from their gardens to blend with coconut oil (known as “monoi”), for secret family recipes that are handed down through generations. Some will add ginger, which stimulates the circulation. Coconut pulp—and the finely ground sand from the beach—are used as body scrubs. “Tamanu oil is sacred for Polynesians,” MacInnis says. It is extracted from a nut and is used to repair the skin, soften stretch marks, ease itchy mosquito bites and soothe skin apres-sun. “You rarely see Polynesians buy beauty products,” she says. “We have everything we need in nature.”

Tropical Beauties

Monoi oil, a blend of luscious tropical ingredients mixed with extra virgin coconut oil, is the basis of Polynesian beauty therapy at the Varua Te Ora Spa at The Brando. Here are the top monois that are featured.

+ Pineapple good for detoxing and tonifying

+ Papaya tonifying, used as a scrub mixed with sugar crystals and coconut powder

+ Tiare a beautiful flower with a soft aroma and a soothing effect

+ Vanilla softens skin and gives it a velvety feeling

+ Sacred flowers a mix of Polynesian flowers—tipanier, opuhi, tiare, miri-miri (Tahitian basil, which has tonifying properties)

DIY Polynesian Hair Mask Recipe


The Brando’s Varua Te Ora Spa Spa Director Tehani MacInnis, above, shared a favorite recipe for a detangling, conditioning, hydrating hair mask.

1. Apply extra virgin coconut oil to wet hair.
2. Leave on for 20 minutes.
3. Rinse with warm water

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Rona Berg

Rona Berg

Editor-In-Chief at Organic Spa Magazine
Editor-in-chief of Organic Spa Media, longtime journalist and best-selling author of Beauty: The New Basics and Fast Beauty: 1000 Quick Fixes (Workman Publishing), Rona Berg is the former Editorial Director of ELLE and Deputy Style Editor for the New York Times Magazine. She has been cited as an industry expert by Huffington Post, Fox News and New York Magazine and contributed to and been quoted in dozens of publications. Berg co-chairs the Personal Care Committee of the non-profit Green Spa Network, is a Charter Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the globe.
Rona Berg