Part of the Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan is an oft-overlooked gem in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The tiny island is relatively untouched, aside from a permanent US Military base and a handful of small villages. An important battle site during World War II, Saipan is still home to several historic landmarks, such as Japanese bunkers and memorials. And despite a strong American and Japanese presence, the indigenous Chamorros culture is still alive and well.
Divided into villages, the island is small and easy to navigate at just 8 kilometres wide and 23 kilometres long. The most built-up area is Garapan where travellers will find a handful of bars, restaurants and hotels. For the best beaches, visit the western and southern coasts — the eastern and northern shores are mostly rugged rocky cliffs. There’s little to no public transportation, so expect to hire a car or catch a taxi to get around. The southern part of the island is mostly rural and untouched. There’s a beautiful mountain range, waterfalls, hiking trails and a black sand beach on Talofofo Bay.
The majority of the island’s beaches feature soft white sand and aquamarine water, but do be mindful of the tides.
Saipan is a beautiful place to learn to scuba dive — the crystal-clear water and tropical fish will not disappoint. Don’t miss the Grotto, a famous cave that promises an incredible adventure. If you don’t have your scuba certification, snorkelling is another popular alternative.
The mega mall in Garapan draws a following for its international name brands and luxury stores. Most of the hotels run shuttles to the complex, making it a popular and convenient side trip.
A tragic yet historic site, this northern cliff is where thousands of Japanese civilians jumped to their death during the Battle of Saipan in 1944 — afraid that they’d be killed by American soldiers.
The island has a reputation for beautiful golf courses, so take a swing while you’re visiting. Three of the most famous were each designed by different international golfers: Greg Norman, Larry Nelson and Graham Marsh.
The natural beauty of Saipan is best enjoyed by exploring outdoors. Popular treks include The Forbidden Island, a bird sanctuary that’s thought to be haunted; and Old Man by the Sea, a 30-foot-tall rock formation located on a secluded beach that, unsurprisingly, resembles an elderly man.
Accommodations on Saipan are limited to a few select hotels resorts, such as the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Aqua Resort Club Saipan, Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan and the Saipan World Resort. Some hotels target specific nationalities, which can be helpful if travellers are anticipating language barriers.
There is no public transport on the island. Visitors may travel by shuttle buses running between hotels and the Duty Free mall, rental cars or taxis.
Having an annual mean temperature of 27°C, Saipan enjoys the most stable climate in the world. It is recommended to visit Saipan during the dry season (December to March) while it is also the ideal time to visit between April to August when the flame trees are beautifully blooming. Flame Tree Festival is hosted annually in late April to showcase the rich arts and cultural heritage on the island.
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