If you are looking for a vacation in a warm, tropical Island with plenty of beaches, crystal clear waters, excellent hiking options and a taste of Micronesian food and culture, Saipan Island is an ideal destination. It is the largest Island in the Archipelago of Northern Mariana Islands in the Philippine Sea.
Although many Americans are unaware of this fact, this beautiful Island in the Marianas, west of Hawaii and south of Japan, is part of US territory. It has been administered by the Unites States since after World War 2 and is now part of the US Commonwealth. The dollar is the local currency, the local inhabitants are US citizens and Americans require no Visa to visit the tropical paradise of Saipan Island. This makes the Island an easily accessible destination for tourists, who have a wonderful range of activities to choose from while visiting this volcanic scuba diver’s Paradise.
Of the Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan Island is the largest. Garapan, Susupe and Chalan Kanoa are some hotel areas on the Island. The third area has the US Postal Services’ main branch and plenty of shopping and eating options. The entire Island is only 14 Miles long and 5 miles wide, so getting around to all parts of the Island doesn’t require much time or effort. The western and southern coasts have beautiful beaches to offer, while the northern terrain is rugged, with volcanic mountains for those who enjoy hiking. The waters are mesmerizing shades of green and blue. The food and culture is Micronesian and there is also some excellent shopping to be done. In short, there is so much to see and do that choosing what to do and what to leave out for a future trip might be the greatest difficulty that a traveller visiting Saipan Island has to face.
What to see and do while visiting Saipan Island
Saipan Island has many unique experiences and a rich palette of activities to offer visitors. Whether you want to relax on a sandy beach, play some golf, explore some cliffs, go diving or windsurfing, enjoy bird-watching or want to do some shopping, there is something here for everyone.
All beaches on Saipan Island are public property so choose one near any of the resorts you like and enjoy the warm weather, which stays in the 80s all year round. The western and southern coasts of Saipan are lined with beautiful sandy beaches so choosing where to put down your towel might be the hardest part of the day.
No visit to Saipan Island is complete without having seen the Grotto. This underwater cavern is formed from Limestone and is up to 70 feet deep. Divers visiting the Grotto will be awestruck by the reefs, reef sharks, turtles and other sea life that they are likely to encounter here. Visibility is excellent so some memorable experiences are practically guaranteed to every diver.
Trekking and Hiking
Saipan Island has some fantastic hiking options to offer, especially in the mountainous terrain in the north. The volcanic Island has some very interesting landscapes as well as unique flora and fauna. Forbidden Island and Bird Island are two of the most beautiful bird sanctuaries frequented by hikers and trekkers.
Scuba diving and snorkeling
Although the Grotto is the most famous undersea attraction on Saipan Island, it is by no means the only one. There are many excellent diving spots and the clear waters with plenty of beautiful undersea creatures make snorkelling here particularly breath-taking. Diving courses are on offer for all levels of divers and many people try their hand at diving for the first time here. Instructors and guides are easily available.
A variety of adventure water sports are offered on Saipan Island, of which canoeing and windsurfing are particularly recommended. The windsurfing is world-class and many Saipanese claim that it is in Saipan that the world’s first windsurfing event took place. The Marianas have a long tradition of long-distance canoeing and it is possible that the first inhabitants on the islands arrived here by canoe.
Saipan Island has multiple Golf courses by the ocean. The views are amazing and there is a range of courses to offer. There are five different Golf Courses to choose from which will really bring an unique experience to your golf game.
1. Lao Lao Bay Golf Resort– This amazing course presents with 36 holes and is the biggest in the Marianas Islands.
Not only was this course designed by the Golf Legend “The Shark”- Greg Norman but sits on one of the prettiest bays in all of the Islands.
Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
2. Coral Ocean Point– This is an 18 hole course that is closer to the Tinian side of the Island. With being close to the windward side and steep cliffs comes a pretty difficult course but beautiful like the others.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
3. Marianas Country Club and Marianas Resort– This 18 hole course provides a place for everyone to enjoy the game. While being on the more northern side of the island, the player gets a beautiful view of the cliffs and Managaha Island.
6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m
4. Kingfisher Golf Course– While if you ask around the Island most people will either say Lao Lao or Kingfisher for their favorite course. the people that I know usually will say Kingfisher for more of a laid back, local experience and the Ocean views.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m
5. Saipan Country Club
This is a small 9 hole course in the Chalan Kya area, which provides a place for people that are not ready for the 18 hole experience in the Saipan heat or just want to get some practice in before the big tournament.
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
If you’re looking for a short change of pace, there are a variety of tours available on the Island. A submarine tour can offer some of the same vistas as diving, without your having to touch the water. Perhaps you’d like to see a magic show which includes a white tiger? Or enjoy a Polynesian dinner with excellent local delicacies and even some fire dances for entertainment? Or maybe you’re in the mood for a sunset cruise, where you are once again served delicious BBQ? These are some of the options available to tourists all year round. Flame Tree Festival: For those who want a deeper look into Micronesian culture, consider planning your stay so that you can see the Flame Tree festival. This annual festival sees artists from the entire region coming together on Saipan Island, to exhibit traditional performance art.
This is a small islet which lies off the west coast of Saipan within its lagoon. Even though there are no permanent residents on the island, it is popular with tourists as their preferred day-trip destination because of its white sandy beaches. There are many activities that visitors can enjoy, including snorkelling, jet skiing and parasailing. This island is also historically significant because a famous chief was buried there. You can also find the remains of the Second World War fortifications that were used by the Japanese. The following are other activities that can be enjoyed by visitors.
Tourists can visit Managaha Island in the morning and then come straight to Marianas trekking for an afternoon adventure in the Grotto, which is an amazing cavern diving site. There are trails to be explored using an All-Terrain Vehicle. Your adventure can be rounded off by visiting the Mandi Asian Spa that has various Jacuzzis, a flower bath, steam room, cold pool, and a lounge area. You can also go on a jungle adventure and explore rugged terrains and hidden trails. You can also drive up to the top of Suicide Cliff and then take an exhilarating ride down on mountain bikes.
Mount Tapochau is a high point on Saipan Island in the north Mariana Islands, rising 1,554 feet above the sea level. It has good weather, the view is indescribable and the mountain offers a 360-degree view of Mariana Islands. Because of its vantage point, the mount was a very strategic outpost when the war was going on.
View from Mt. Tapochau
Punta Sabaneta- Banzai Cliff
The place is also called Banzai Cliff, and it’s a beautiful place to visit. When the battle of Saipan ended, Japanese civilians and military personnel plunged over these cliffs and died instead of surrendering to the US forces. There are beautiful views to be enjoyed, and there are many monuments in honour of those people who died, and monuments that promote peace for the future generations.
Saipan Island is the location for many historical battle sites dating back to World War 2. Suicide Cliff is the site for a gruesome event from this time. During the 1944 Battle of Saipan, Japanese civilians were convinced by their Army that the American Army would massacre all Japanese citizens when they took control of the Island. As a result, thousands of people choose to commit suicide by jumping off this cliff on the northern tip of Saipan.
Bird Island is a Sanctuary that is right in close proximity to the Grotto and is a great place to look over the ocean for a beautiful view with some interesting birds. This area along with Forbidden Island was created in the year 2000 with a law that allowed it to be a sanctuary. There is a hike that will allow you to go down to Bird Island Beach, but look for the sign that has specific rules and you will find this sign right at the beginning of the trail.
Forbidden Island is another bird sanctuary that was created by a Public Law in the year 2000. What is interesting about Forbidden Island is that is said to be haunted by evil spirits. It is a beautiful place to hike to and you need a 4 wheel drive to get to this Island just out of the Kagman area. It is a great place to snorkel but please be very careful as people have been swept out to sea at this location. Just as recent as Jan. 2015, a 6 year old young girl drowned and then a 16 yr old boy died as well when trying to rescue her.
For history buffs, there are many other sites dating back to World War 2 as well. In addition to enjoying the nature, Japanese Bunkers, and Armaments from the time can be visited in many Parks on Saipan Island.
American War Memorial Park
Erected in 1994 by the United States of America, The American War Memorial Park has been constructed to honor as well as mourn the fallen soldiers of the World War II Battles of Saipan, Tinian, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Their names will forever be inscribed to allow for the remembrance for their bravery, honor, and sacrifices so far from their homes.
Old Japanese Jail– 1919-1944
This is an old Jail right in the middle of town on a connected street from middle road to Beach Road. There is a lot of mystery to this Jail and some people have reported that Amelia Everhart spent her last days here. It is a must see- if you are into historic buildings or landmarks. It is said to have been used up until the Battle of Saipan and then the Japanese let the prisoners go to recede into the safer mountains when the Americans arrived. Bullet holes and supposedly some old American inscriptions are said to still be seen in the walls.
Last Command Post
For someone who loves the history of the Second World War, this park is worth visiting. There are guns and ordinances from the war, and you can also explore the cave that served as a final command post for the Japanese army. There are memorials honouring people who died during the war. Visiting the site is a great and humbling experience.
The food on Saipan Island is diverse, from traditional Polynesian cuisine to American, Italian and Japanese. For the gastronomically inclined, there are traditional dinners available, where local flora and fauna are cooked in very interesting ways. If, however, you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, there are still many options of more familiar food available.
Passport and Visa Regulations
Saipan Island is considered US territory and American visitors are no longer required to have passports and pass through customs and immigration to enter Saipan.
The Island is beautiful, the weather is always great, there’s plenty to do and there’s no red-tape required to get there. So what are you waiting for? Hop on a flight and visit Saipan Island for an adventure that you’ll be telling your friends about for years to come.
For more information on Visas, then go to the Saipan Visa page