Dreaming of white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters for your next vacation? You should definitely consider a visit to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI). This US territory in the South Pacific is made up of 15 islands, and it is one of the emerging tourism hotspots in the region. The CNMI is famed for its natural wonders and tropical weather that make year-round outdoor activities available. The main islands that are inhabited are Saipan, Rota, and Tinian, but all over the territory, there are various wonders just waiting to be discovered by visitors.
There are also various hotels in CNMI to consider staying at, and you will be sure to find one that suits your needs and your budget. If you are looking for a luxurious experience you can book one of the several high-end name brand resorts that offer amenities like pools, spas, gyms, private beaches and on-site activities. Tourists seeking more budget-friendly accommodations can likewise choose from a range of affordable local hotels, hostels, and homestays that offer safe, clean, and functional rooms. A quick search on the internet should set you on the right path.
No matter where you stay, however, the year-round tropical weather of the Northern Marianas makes it an ideal place to engage in holiday activities. Below is a list of places you definitely shouldn’t miss once you’ve decided to make the Northern Marianas your next holiday destination.
Managaha island is an islet off the coast of Saipan. It is a popular place for day trips due to its pristine beach and blue water. The island is uninhabited and accessible via a ferry. Here, visitors can spend the day lounging on the beach and enjoying a picnic. Activities like snorkeling, swimming, diving and parasailing can be done on the island as well. If you decide to go snorkeling or scuba diving, some marine life you may see include various species of fish, reef sharks, and sea turtles.
This dive site off the coast of Saipan is one of the Northern Marianas’ famed tourist spots. It features a huge limestone cavern connected to the ocean and illuminated by an underwater spotlight. Be sure to take an waterproof camera for some really stunning photos. Visitors to the Grotto can cliff dive, scuba dive, snorkel, and free dive here. Doing so with a guide is highly advisable.
Bird Island is a small island off the coast of Saipan. The islet is a bird sanctuary and is thus inaccessible to the public. Instead of setting foot on the island, tourists visit the lookout point overlooking the island to admire the stunning views. Our tip is to visit pre-dawn and watch the sunrise here as it illuminates the surrounding coast, and you can listen to the birds come alive at the start of a new day. You can also visit the lookout point at night to admire the stars.
Despite the island’s name, tourists are not actually prohibited from visiting Forbidden Island. It’s actually a craggy outcrop off the east coast of Saipan —perfect if you’re looking for a hiking adventure. To get to the island, you’ll hike for around 40 minutes to an hour on a steep path off the main road. This hike is dotted with views of the island and coast. On Forbidden Island itself, there are several clear tide pools where you can swim and snorkel. There is also a cave which has its own tide pool. Make sure to wear sturdy footwear to ensure ample protection for your feet, and consider bringing along a picnic lunch to reward yourself after your hike. We also recommend hiring a guide and packing aqua shoes if you plan to explore the cave.
Garapan Street Market
Strolling through the local market is always a great way to engage in a place’s local culture for free. Garapan is a neighborhood in Saipan, and every Tuesday and Thursday, from 5PM to 9PM, they hold a night market where various stalls sell food and souvenirs. Come with a hungry stomach, and take advantage of classic favorites from different cuisines, including Filipino, Chinese, and Thai. In this market, you can also see a local Chamorro cultural show featuring the islands’ traditional dances.
The Last Command Post Park and Suicide Cliff
The Northern Marianas were occupied by the Japanese up until the end of the Second World War. The remnants of this period can still be found at the Last Command Post Park. Located at the base of Suicide cliff, the command post was the Japanese’s last bunker on the island before losing the territory to the Americans. War relics and memorials can be found throughout the park. Suicide cliff is so named because this was the site from which Japanese soldiers and civilians jumped to their deaths rather than surrender toward the end of the war.
If you’re looking for more WWII history, you can pay a visit to the island of Tinian. The island is home to North Field and Runway Able. During the latter days of the war, North Field was an airfield and Runway Able, now a national monument, was the air strip from which the B29 bombers, the Enola Gray and Bockscar, departed carrying the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apart from the runway, you can explore a few WWII-era buildings, including some air raid shelters.
Tinian also has two Shinto shrines that you can visit. They are among the few Shinto shrines located outside Japan. Moreover, the island also has beaches where you can swim and take in the view of the ocean. One of these beaches is famed for a blowhole or marine geyser that shoots water several meters into the air.
The last of the main islands of the Northern Marianas is Rota. It is home to Chenchun Park, a bird sanctuary where you can see some rare tropical birds. Other landmarks include Tonga Cave, which is believed to have been used by the ancient Chamorros for thousands of years. During the Second World
War it was used by the Japanese to house a small hospital. Before modern building techniques were practiced on the island, Tonga Cave was also used by locals as a typhoon shelter.
On Rota, you can tour the remnants of the Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha Sugar Mill. This former industrial facility is a holdover from the Japanese occupation of the Northern Marianas, when the islands were used to farm sugar. The remnants of this time include the only brick structure in the Northern Marianas and an old steam engine locomotive that’s located a bit further afield.
With so much to discover and to do in the Northern Marianas, your visit will be a wonderful balance of nature, relaxation and history. What are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today. We are sure you will have a wonderful time.