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Travel Guide Oceania Micronesia Northern Mariana Islands Saipan

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Introduction

RC Church in Garapan, Saipan

RC Church in Garapan, Saipan

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Saipan is the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands and has a population of about 70,000 people. The name Saipan refers to both the island and the main settlement on the island. It is a popular tourist destination in the Pacific and the western side of the island is lined with sandy beaches and an offshore coral reef which creating a large lagoon. This island is an extremely popular tourist destination for Japanese, Korean and Chinese tour groups. All the tourist facilities are to be found on Saipan Island and if you like beaches, snorkelling and diving you came to the right place.

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Sights and Activities

WWII Sites

Saipan, Guam, and many other islands of the Marianas were all important battle sites during WWII, and many Japanese bunkers and armaments still exist on these islands. These sites are managed by the National Park Service under the "War in the Pacific" Parks designation. Saipan is fairly small and by renting a car or moped, it is easy to drive around the island and take in the natural splendor, as well as visit a number of parks. Scuba diving is also popular, and the underwater world should definitely be seen. Banzai Cliff and Suicide Cliff, on the northern tip of the island, were sites where thousands of Japanese civilians, trying to escape the fighting and convinced by the Japanese Army that they would be killed by the Americans, jumped to their deaths in the Battle of Saipan in 1944. The former is by the sea while the latter is on the rock outcropping overlooking it. Numerous Japanese memorials mark the sites.

Diving

  • The Grotto - an amazing underwater cave voted the 2nd best in the world by Skin Dive Magazine.
  • Wing Beach - This dive site includes some nice black coral, several downed World War II planes and lots of octopi.
  • Eagle Ray City - a rock formation that on a good day will have up to 40 eagle rays swimming around.
  • Ice Cream - Located on the west side of Saipan this seamount, like Dimple, is home to eels, anemones, eagle rays and fish.
  • Lau Lau Beach - the entry to the largest reef on the island and has hundreds of animals to see. This is an ideal site for beginners.
  • Dimple - a seamount on the western side of Saipan. There are several different animals there but the highlight is the abundance of butterfly fish.
  • Naftan - Located on the soutehrn tip of the island this is one of the best dive sites on the whole island. With stunning visibility and fish life this a great place to dive.
  • Chinsen - a large Japanese freighter the sunk over 50 years ago. This is a good spot to see red snappers and big eye emperor fish. There is even a resident white tip shark that lives under the wreck.
  • Banzai Cliff - This beautiful wall is located on the north side of the island. This site is famous for large pelagic fish like sharks, also rays and dolphins are often seen here. This site is only open during certain times of the years due to its depth and currents making it an advance site.
  • Spot Light - This site is located near Banzai, and similar to Banzai is closed most of the year. This is a very advance cavern dive site and is home to many large animals like sharks and turtles.
  • Obyan Beach - Located near Naftan Point this site has some of the best visibilty on the island, which is up to 150 feet (50 metres). This is a great sight for photography because of large number of barracudas, sharks and eels.

Golf

  • Coral Ocean Point - the most challenging golf course on the isalnd with a Par of 72 and 18 holes. Phone:670 234 7000, Email: reservation@copspn.com
  • Lao Lao Golf Resort - Saipan's two newest championship golf courses. The West Course is interiorly inland with great views of Mt. Topatchao, while the East Course is a great tourist course with parts located on the coastline, especially the 6th hole that has dramatic cliffs dropping off the sides of it. Phone: 670-256-8888, Email: rsvn@laolaobay.com

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Weather

The climate on Saipan is characterised by tropical conditions with little variation regarding temperatures, and a distinct wet season. Average daytime temperatures hoover around 29 °C and the highest recorded temperatures are just a few degrees at most islands. At night, temperatures drop to a balmy 23 °C with a record low of 19 °C! The wet season last from July to October, with August and September seeing the most rain. During December to May, conditions are much drier but occasional downpours during the late afternoon are still normal. During the wet season, tropical storms and even cyclones are a real possibility.

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Getting There

By Plane

Saipan International Airport (SPN) receives a number of international flights. There are direct connections with several Asian countries. From South Korea, there are flights from Seoul and Busan with Asiana while from Japan, there are direct flights with Northwest Airlines from Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo.

Continental Airlines, via its subsidiary Continental Micronesia, has flights from the Philippines and Guam. People travelling from North America have to connect in the latter one.

On top of the regular flights, there are many seasonal charters from China (Air China from Beijing, China Eastern and Spring Air from Shanghai and China Southern from Guangzhou) and Taiwan (EVA Air from Taipei).

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Getting Around

There is no public bus service on Saipan, but on Saipan PDI and other companies run a shopping shuttle bus to and from the Duty Free mall (DFS Galleria) in Garapan. DFS also has their own free shuttle from most of the major hotels.

Taxis on Saipan are expensive but plentiful, however the only place they are allowed to pick up or drop off passengers is at the airport or a hotel, and sometimes at DFS. There is also a large network of illegal taxis run by Chinese immigrants, that will take you anywhere for $15.00. For some Saipan residents this is their only means of transportation.

Because Saipan is so small, taxis from the airport to the main hotel area of Garapan can run upwards of $25-30, so plan ahead by arranging transportation through your hotel, which often charge $10 per person flat rate.

Car rental is a good option for getting off the beaten track, as roads are generally quite good. Most car rental offices are either at the airport or at major tourist hotels; some offer a free pick up and drop off service.

Mopeds can be rented for about $20, though roads are very dark at night and bugs predominate after dusk. Therefore, consider mopeds for day-tripping only, as drivers tend not to give heed to mopeds or bicyclists throughout the CNMI or Guam.

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Eat

Many nice bakeries exist in and around Garapan and local breakfast places are within walking distance of the main hotel area. Seafood from the local street markets is understandably very fresh.

Commercial chains on Saipan include Hard Rock Cafe, Tony Roma's, McDonald's, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Subway. Vegetarian options are possible to find as well. For self-catering options, try one of the Joeten supermarkets for fruits and vegetables, some locally grown.

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Sleep

Most of Saipan's accommodation caters to package tourists. Rates are steep during Japanese holiday seasons but equally steeply discounted outside them. Internet bookings can regularly find rates below $60 per night, depending on the season.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet access is widely available. The top level domain for the Northern Marianas is .mp.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The Northern Marianas are part of the North American dialing plan. The country code is 1, and the local area code is 670.

Post

Mail is handled by the U.S. Postal Service; the state code is MP and the postal code is 96950. The main post office branch is in Chalan Kanoa, other branches are in Capitol Hill as well as Tinian and Rota. Most hotels can send mail for you. DHL and FedEx also offer courier services.

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Accommodation in Saipan

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Saipan searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Saipan and areas nearby.

Saipan Travel Helpers

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This is version 12. Last edited at 8:15 on May 10, 17 by Utrecht. 7 articles link to this page.

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