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Mariany Saipan2.jpg
Topographic map of Saipan Island
Mariana Islands - Saipan.PNG
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 15°10′51″N 145°45′21″E / 15.18083°N 145.75583°E / 15.18083; 145.75583
Archipelago Marianas
Area 44.55 square miles (115.4 km2)
Length 12 miles (19 km)
Width 5.6 miles (9.0 km)
Highest point Mount Tapochau (1,560 feet (480 m))
United States
Commonwealth  Northern Mariana Islands
Population 62,392 (as of 2000)
Density 540.71 /km2 (1,400.4 /sq mi)
A map of Saipan, Tinian & Aguijan

Saipan (pronounced /saɪˈpæn/) is the largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a chain of 15 tropical islands belonging to the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean (15°10’51”N, 145°45’21”E) with a total area of 44.55 sq mi (115.4 km2). The 2000 census population was 62,392.[1]

The Commonwealth's center of government is located in the village of Capital Hill on the island. As the entire island is organized as a single municipality, most publications term "Saipan" as the Commonwealth's capital.

Located at latitude of 15.25° north and longitude of 145.75° east, about 120 mi (190 km) north of Guam, Saipan is about 12 mi (19 km) long and 5.6 mi (9.0 km) wide. It is a popular tourist destination in the Pacific.

The western side of the island is lined with sandy beaches and an offshore coral reef which creates a large lagoon. The eastern shore is composed primarily of rugged rocky cliffs and a reef. Its highest point is a limestone covered mountain called Mount Tapochau at 1,560 ft (480 m). Many people consider Mount Tapochau to be an extinct volcano, but is in fact a limestone formation.[2] To the north of Mount Tapochau towards Banzai Cliff is a ridge of hills. Mount Achugao, situated about 2 miles north, has been interpreted to be a remnant of a stratified composite volcanic cone whose Eocene center was not far north of the present peak.[3]

Besides English, the indigenous Chamorro language is spoken by approximately 19 percent of the inhabitants.[citation needed] The current governor of the CNMI is Benigno Fitial, who is the successor of Juan Babauta. The island also has many other large, strongly defined lingual and ethnic groups because of the large percentage of contract workers (60% of total population, as of 2001[4]) from China, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. In addition, a large percentage of the island's population includes first-generation immigrants from Japan, China, and Korea, and immigrants from many of the other Micronesian islands.



Saipan, along with neighboring Guam, Rota/Luta, Tinian, and to a lesser extent smaller islands northward, was first inhabited around 2000 BCE[citation needed] The Spanish were the first Europeans to encounter the Chamorros and Spain eventually annexed Saipan as part of its claim to the Mariana Islands. Around 1815, many Carolinians[5][6] from Satawal settled Saipan during a period when the Chamorros were imprisoned on Guam, which resulted in a significant loss of land and rights for the Chamorro natives. Germany ruled Saipan from 1899 until World War I, when the Empire of Japan took over the island, governing it under a League of Nations mandate from 1922. The Japanese developed both fishing and sugar industries, and in the 1930s garrisoned Saipan heavily, resulting in nearly 30,000 troops on the island by 1941. By December 1941, Saipan had a population of more than 30,000 people, including 25,000 Japanese settlers.[7]

On June 15, 1944 during World War II, U.S. Marines landed on the beaches of the southwestern side of the island, and spent more than three weeks fighting the Battle of Saipan to secure it from the Japanese. Seabees of the U.S. Navy also landed to participate in construction projects. Nearly all of the 30,000 Japanese defenders were killed; thousands of Japanese civilians also died, many threw themselves off Banzai Cliff.[8] The battle was dramatized in John Woo's 2002 film Windtalkers. This history is also interpreted on Saipan at American Memorial Park and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Museum of History and Culture.

The CNMI joined the United States in November 1986. During negotiations, the CNMI and the USA agreed that the CNMI would be exempted from certain federal laws, including some concerning labor and immigration. One result was an increase in hotels and tourism. However, dozens of garment factories also opened; clothing manufacture became the island's chief economic force, employing thousands of foreign contract laborers while labeling their goods "made in the U.S.A." and supplying the U.S. market with low cost garments exempt from U.S. tariffs. The working conditions and treatment experienced by employees in these factories were the subject of controversy and criticism (see below).[9] These factories have all closed down. (See "Economy")

Agriculture, flora and fauna

Thai hot peppers, or tinian peppers, growing wild.

Undeveloped areas on the island are covered with sword grass meadows and dense, dry-forest jungle known as Tangan-Tangan. Coconuts, papayas, and Thai hot peppers – locally called "Donne Sali" or "Boonie Peppers" – are among the fruits that grow wild. Mango, taro root, and bananas are a few of the many foods cultivated by local families and farmers. Sportfishing is excellent[citation needed] offshore, with numerous small boats catching tuna, wahoo, billfish and many other species.

A number of native birds are easily visible to visitors: among them, Melanesian Honeyeaters; Pacific Reef Herons; and collared kingfishers.

The island used to have a large population of giant African land snails, introduced either deliberately as a food source, or accidentally by shipping. It became an agricultural pest. In the last few decades, its numbers have been substantially controlled by an introduced flatworm, Platydemus manokwari. Unfortunately, possibly due to the flatworm, the endemic tree-snails also became extinct.


Music on Saipan can generally be broken down into three branches: local, mainland American and Asian. Local consists of Chamorro, Carolinian and Micronesian traditional music and song, often with traditional dance for many occasions. Mainland American is many of the same varieties that can be found on U.S. radio, and Asian consists of Japanese, Korean, Thai and Philippine music among others.


Local television stations on Saipan are the following:

  • ABC7, the ABC affiliate, which is owned by Sorensen Media Group.
  • KSPN2, which is owned by the Flame Tree Network.
  • The Visitors Channel 3, which is owned by the Flame Tree Network.
  • KUAM (WSZE-TV 10), the NBC affiliate, which is owned by Pacific Telestations.


Beach Road
Middle Road

Travel to and from the island is available from several airlines via Saipan International Airport. A ferry also operates between Saipan and Tinian, its smaller neighboring island 5 miles to the south. Taxis are available.

One of the island's two main thoroughfares, Beach Road, is located on the western coast of Saipan. At some parts of the road, the beach is only a few feet away. Flame trees and pine trees line the street. The street also connects more than six villages that lie on the western coast of the island. Middle Road is the island's largest road and runs through its central section. Like Beach Road, Middle Road connects several villages throughout the island. Several offices, shops, hotels, and residences lie on or nearby these highways.


Tourism has long been a vital source of the island's revenue, although the industry has undergone a serious decline since the Asian Economic Crisis of the mid-to-late 1990s. Some major airlines have since ceased regular service to the island. Some internationally-known businesses which located to Saipan are struggling, and some have gone out of business.[citation needed]

In years past, the main economic driving force in Saipan was garment manufacturing, driven largely by foreign contract workers (mainly from China). As of March, 2007[10] 19 companies manufactured garments on Saipan. In addition to many foreign-owned and -run companies, many well-known U.S. brands also operated garment factories in Saipan for much of the last three decades. Brands include Gap (as of 2000 operating 6[11] factories there), Levi Strauss,[12] Phillips-Van Heusen,[13] Abercrombie & Fitch,[14] L'Oreal subsidiary Ralph Lauren (Polo),[15] Lord & Taylor,[16], Tommy Hilfiger and Walmart.[17]

Currently, there are no garment manufacturers on the island, with the last one closing in February, 2009. On November 28, 2009, the federal government is scheduled to take control of immigration to the Northern Mariana Islands. It is unknown what effect this development will have on local contract workers.[citation needed]

Villages and towns

The island of Saipan has a total of 31 "official" villages. However, there are many sub-areas and neighborhoods located in certain villages such as Afetnas in San Antonio and Tapochau and I Denne in Capitol Hill. Those in italics are the sub-villages.

  • Achugao
  • As Lito
  • As Matuis
  • As Perdido
  • As Teo
  • As Terlaje
  • Capital Hill I Denne, Tapochau, and Wireless Ridge
  • Chalan Kanoa Laly I, II, III, and IV
  • Chalan Kiya
  • Chalan Laulau Quartermaster
  • Chalan Piao
  • Chinatown
  • Dandan Airport Road, Naftan, and Obyan
  • Fina Sisu
  • Garapan
  • Gualo Rai
  • Kagman I, II, and III"
  • Kannat Tabla
  • Koblerville As Gonno
  • Lower Base
  • Marpi
  • Navy Hill Chalan Galaide and Rapagao
  • Oleai
  • Papago
  • Puerto Rico
  • Sadog Tasi As Mahetog
  • San Antonio Afetnas
  • San Roque
  • San Vicente Lao Lao Beach
  • Susupe
  • Tanapag


Jack Abramoff CNMI scandal

Jack Abramoff and his law firm were paid at least $6.7 million by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from 1995 to 2001.[citation needed]

Later lobbying efforts involved mailings from a Ralph Reed marketing company to Christian conservative voters and bribery of Roger Stillwell, a Department of the Interior official who in 2006 pleaded guilty to accepting gifts from Abramoff.[citation needed]

Foreign contract labor abuse and exemptions from U.S. federal regulations

Entrance of a garment factory on Saipan, 2006.

Excerpted from "Immigration and the CNMI: A report of the US Commission on Immigration Reform", January 7, 1998:

"The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) immigration system is antithetical to the principals that are at the core of the US immigration policy. Over time, the CNMI has developed an immigration system dominated by the entry of foreign temporary contract workers. These now outnumber US citizens but have few rights within the CNMI and are subject to serious labor and human rights abuses. In contrast to US immigration policy, which admits immigrants for permanent residence and eventual citizenship, the CNMI admits aliens largely as temporary contract workers who are ineligible to gain either US citizenship or civil and social rights within the commonwealth. Only a few countries and no democratic society have immigration policies similar to the CNMI. The closest equivalent is Kuwait. The end result of the CNMI policy is to have a minority population governing and severely limiting the rights of the majority population who are alien in every sense of the word."

On March 31, 1998,[18] US Senator Daniel Akaka said:

The Commonwealth shares our American flag, but it does not share the American system of immigration. There is something fundamentally wrong with a CNMI immigration system that issues permits to recruiters, who in turn promise well-paying American jobs to foreigners in exchange for a $6,000 recruitment fee. When the workers arrive in Saipan, they find their recruiter has vanished and there are no jobs in sight. Hundreds of these destitute workers roam the streets of Saipan with little or no chance of employment and no hope of returning to their homeland. The State Department has confirmed that the government of China is an active participant in the CNMI immigration system. There is something fundamentally wrong with an immigration system that allows the government of China to prohibit Chinese workers from exercising political or religious freedom while employed in the United States. Something is fundamentally wrong with a CNMI immigration system that issues entry permits for 12- and 13-year-old girls from the Philippines and other Asian nations, and allows their employers to use them for live sex shows and prostitution.

Worker barracks at a garment factory on Saipan, 2006.

Finally, something is fundamentally wrong when a Chinese construction worker asks if he can sell one of his kidneys for enough money to return to China and escape the deplorable working conditions in the Commonwealth and the immigration system that brought him there.

There are voices in the CNMI telling us that the cases of worker abuse we keep hearing about are isolated examples, that the system is improving, and that worker abuse is a thing of the past. These are the same voices that reap the economic benefits of a system of indentured labor that enslaves thousands of foreign workers – a system described in a bi-partisan study as "an unsustainable economic, social and political system that is antithetical to most American values." There is overwhelming evidence that abuse in the CNMI occurs on a grand scale and the problems are far from isolated.

In 1991,[19] Levi Strauss & Co. was embarrassed by a scandal involving six subsidiary factories run on Saipan by the Tan Holdings Corporation. It was revealed that Chinese laborers in those factories suffered under what the U.S. Department of Labor called "slavelike" conditions. Cited for sub-minimal wages, seven-day work week schedules with twelve-hour shifts, poor living conditions and other indignities (including the alleged removal of passports and the virtual imprisonment of workers), Tan would eventually pay what was then the largest fines in U.S. labor history, distributing more than $9 million in restitution to some 1200 employees.[1] [2] [3] At the time, Tan factories produced 3% of Levi's jeans with the "Made in the U.S.A." label. Levi Strauss claimed that it had no knowledge of the offenses, severed ties to the Tan family, and instituted labor reforms and inspection practices in its offshore facilities.

A loading ramp of a garment factory on Saipan, 2006.

In 1999, Sweatshop Watch, Global Exchange, Asian Law Caucus, Unite, and the garment workers themselves filed three separate lawsuits in class-action suits on behalf of roughly 30,000 garment workers in Saipan. The defendants included 27 U.S. retailers and 23 Saipan garment factories. By 2004, they had won a 20 million dollar settlement against all but one of the defendants.[20]

Levi Strauss & Co. was the only successful defendant, winning the case against them in 2004.[20]

In 2005–2006, the issue of immigration and labor practices on Saipan was brought up during the American political scandals of Congressman Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who visited the island on numerous occasions. Ms. magazine has followed the issue and published a major expose in their Spring 2006 article "Paradise Lost: Greed, Sex Slavery, Forced Abortion and Right-Wing Moralists".

On February 8, 2007, the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources received testimony about federalizing CNMI labor and immigration.

On July 19, 2007,[21] Deputy Assistant Secretary of Insular Affairs David B. Cohen testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Regarding S. 1634 (The Northern Mariana Islands Covenant Implementation Act).[21] He said:

Congress has the authority to make immigration and naturalization laws applicable to the CNMI. Through the bill that we are discussing today, Congress is proposing to take this legislative step to bring the immigration system of the CNMI under Federal administration. [...] [S]erious problems continue to plague the CNMI’s administration of its immigration system, and we remain concerned that the CNMI’s rapidly deteriorating fiscal situation may make it even more difficult for the CNMI government to devote the resources necessary to effectively administer its immigration system and to properly investigate and prosecute labor abuse. [...] While we congratulate the CNMI for its recent successful prosecution of a case in which foreign women were pressured into prostitution, human trafficking remains far more prevalent in the CNMI than it is in the rest of the U.S. During the twelve-month period ending on April 30, 2007, 36 female victims of human trafficking were admitted to or otherwise served by Guma’ Esperansa, a women’s shelter operated by a Catholic nonprofit organization. All of these victims were in the sex trade. Secretary Kempthorne personally visited the shelter and met with a number of women from the Philippines who were underage when they were trafficked into the CNMI for the sex industry. [...I]t is clear that local control over CNMI immigration has resulted in a human trafficking problem that is proportionally much greater than the problem in the rest of the U.S. A number of foreign nationals have come to the Federal Ombudsman’s office complaining that they were promised a job in the CNMI after paying a recruiter thousands of dollars to come there, only to find, upon arrival in the CNMI, that there was no job. Secretary Kempthorne met personally with a young lady from China who was the victim of such a scam and who was pressured to become a prostitute; she was able to report her situation and obtain help in the Federal Ombudsman’s office. We believe that steps need to be taken to protect women from such terrible predicaments. We are also concerned about recent attempts to smuggle foreign nationals, in particular Chinese nationals, from the CNMI into Guam by boat. A woman was recently sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to smuggle over 30 Chinese nationals from the CNMI into Guam.

A movement to federalize labor and immigration in the Northern Marianas Islands began in early 2007. A letter writing campagn to reform CNMI labor and immigration was debated in the local newspapers. Worker groups organized a successful Unity March December 7, 2007. Despite a strong lobby effort by Governor Fitial to stop it, President Bush signed PL 110-229 into law in May 2008 and the US takeover began November 28, 2009.

Contract laborers arriving from China are usually required to pay their (Chinese National) recruitment agents fees equal to a year's total salary[22] (roughly $3,500) and occasionally as high as two years' salary,[18] though the contracts are only one-year contracts, renewable at the employer's discretion.

60% of the population of the CNMI is contract workers. These workers cannot vote. They are not represented, and can be deported if they lose their jobs. Meanwhile, the minimum wage remains well below that on the U.S. mainland, and abuses of vulnerable workers are commonplace.[4]

In John Bowe's 2007 book Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy, he provides a focus on Saipan, exploring how its culture, isolation and American ties have made it a favorable environment for exploitative garment manufacturers and corrupt politicos. Bowe additionally describes the factories, karaoke bars, and strip joints with ties to politicos. Bowe depicts Saipan as a vulnerable, truly suffering community, where poverty rates have climbed as high as 35 percent.

Chinese national, Chun Yu Wang, in her 2009 book, Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan, provides the only known first-hand account of factory work conditions and life in the barracks, and provides revealing insights from a Chinese perspective into the experience typical of many of the garment factory workers on Saipan.

Other local issues

Despite an annual rainfall of 80 to 100 inches (2,000 to 2,500 mm), the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC), the local government-run water utility company on Saipan, is unable to deliver 24-hour-a-day potable water to its customers in certain areas. As a result, several large hotels use reverse osmosis to produce fresh water for their customers. In addition, many homes and small businesses augment the sporadic and sometimes brackish water provided by CUC with rainwater collected and stored in cisterns. Most locals buy drinking water from water distributors and use tap water only for bathing or washing.

Saipan also has a place in many Irish people's minds after the “Roy Keane Incident”, a bitter and public falling-out between Republic of Ireland football (soccer) star Roy Keane and Ireland manager Mick McCarthy which took place before the 2002 FIFA World Cup., an anonymously-written website which criticizes the government, culture, and indigenous residents of the island, gained the attention of the local media in 2001 and regional and international media in 2006.


Commonwealth Health Center, Saipan, 2006, the island's only hospital.

According to the last census in 2000,[23] the population of Saipan was 62,392. Mono-racial people totaled 56,355, and their demographic breakdown in descending order by category was as follows:

Asians numbered 35,985, comprising 57.7% of the population.

Pacific Islanders numbered 18,781, comprising 30.1% of the population.

People of two or more races or ethnic groups numbered 6,037, comprising 9.7% of the population.

Whites numbered 1,121, comprising 1.8% of the population.

Other races/ethnic groups numbered 435, comprising 0.7% of the population.

Blacks numbered 33, comprising 0.1% of the population.

45.2% of the population was male, 54.8% was female. The median age of the island's population was 28.7, which is higher than in most other Oceanic regions due to its volume of foreign workers.[24]

The population rose 18% (9,694) since the previous census in 1995.[25]


Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Public School System serves Saipan.

Northern Marianas College is a two-year community college serving the Northern Mariana Islands.

Notable residents from the mainland United States

Appearances in fiction

Saipan was a major part of the plot in the Tom Clancy novel Debt of Honor. The island is invaded by Japan, as part of a systematic attack on the United States.

Much of the action in 2002 film Windtalkers takes place during the invasion of Saipan during World War II.

A significant part of the novel Amrita by Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto takes place in Saipan with regular references to the landscape and spirituality of the island.

Appearances in television

Saipan was the main site for a South Korean dating reality TV show "Kko Kko Tour".

See also


  1. ^ Census Bureau Releases, Census 2000 Population Counts for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, July 3, 2001.
  2. ^ Geological sections across Saipan (see section B), from Robert L. Carruth (2003), Ground-Water Resources of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. USGS Water-Resources Investigation Report 03-4178, Honolulu, Hawaii.
  3. ^ Robert L. Carruth (2003), Ground-Water Resources of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. USGS Water-Resources Investigation Report 03-4178, Honolulu, Hawaii.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ CNMI: Tanapag - Arrival: Come Ashore
  6. ^ Carolinian-Marianas Voyaging, Continuing the Tradition
  7. ^ "A Go: Another Battle for Sapian"
  8. ^ "Battle of Saipan".
  9. ^ Howard P. Willens and Deanne C. Siemer. An Honorable Accord: the Covenant between the Northern Marianas and the United States. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press (Pacific Islands Monograph Series 18), 2003.
  10. ^ Saipan Tribune
  11. ^ Women and Global Human Rights
  12. ^ Co-op America: Printer friendly page
  13. ^ Responsible Shopper Profile: Phillips-Van Heusen
  14. ^ Responsible Shopper Profile: Abercrombie & Fitch
  15. ^ Responsible Shopper Profile: L'Oreal
  16. ^ Responsible Shopper Profile: Lord & Taylor
  17. ^ Child Labor Wal-Mart
  18. ^ a b Daniel Kahikina Akaka, U.S. Senator of Hawaii: Statements and Speeches
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b Saipan Sweatshop Lawsuit Ends with Important Gains for Workers and Lessons for Activists
  21. ^ a b DOI Office of Insular Affairs (OIA)- Statement of David B. Cohen Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs Before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Regarding S. 1634, The Northern Mariana Islands Covenant Implementation Act July 19, 2007
  22. ^
  23. ^ CNMI profile from the U.S. Census Bureau
  24. ^ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data based on 2000 CNMI census
  25. ^ "CNMI census 2000 update", 10 July 2001

External links

Coordinates: 15°11′N 145°45′E / 15.183°N 145.75°E / 15.183; 145.75

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Saipan is the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Map of Saipan and Tinian
Map of Saipan and Tinian
  • Garapan is the main hotel area on Saipan, and includes a number of hotels, bars and restaurants.
  • Chalan Kanoa is the site of the the US invasion of Saipan. It has the main branch of the US Postal Service. It also has several restaurants and grocery stores.


Saipan is 23 km (14 mi) long and 8 km (5 mi) wide. The best beaches and most populated areas are on the western and southern coasts, with the north and east being rugged and mountainous.

Many Chamorros on Saipan consider their culture more intact than on Guam, the U.S. Military has only one small permanent presence on Saipan, the U.S. Coast Guard. Therefore, comparisons between the two islands should take this into account. Furthermore, Chamorros on Saipan and throughout the CNMI still primarily speak Chamorro at home, while the same isn't true of Guam. Furthermore, while the differences between a commonwealth (as in the CNMI) and a territory (as in Guam) may not appear to be great (especially to a mainland US citizen), Saipan should not be referred to as a territory when speaking to a local. Finally, while the population of the CNMI, as on Guam, are US citizens and proud to be recognised as such, their independence is equally important.


While English is the official language, relatively few people on Saipan speak English as their first language. Nevertheless, nearly everybody does speak English (and a smattering of Japanese), though with much more of an accent than on Guam. Most locals speak Chamorro, Carolinian or another of the Micronesian languages at home. The majority of people living on Saipan are overseas contract labor, however. These people come mostly from Philippines (travel, diving and entertainment), Bangladesh, China (clothing manufacture) and Taiwan. Furthermore, Korean, Japanese and (recently) Russian tourists make these languages fairly prevalent as well.

Most hotels are geared toward a particular language/nationality such as Japanese or Korean, which represent most of the tourism. A notable exception is Pacific Islands Club, which is geared toward a multilingual/multinationial clientele. Likewise, most of the SCUBA shops are geared toward Japanese or Korean tourism, though the heavy reliance on Philippine dive staff ensures that many will also be able to handle English-speaking customers.

Get in

By plane

Saipan International Airport (SPN) is located in the southeast corner of the island. Direct flights are available from Tokyo and Nagoya (via Northwest Airlines), Seoul (via Korean Air and Asiana), and the nearby islands of Guam, Tinian, and Rota.

U.S. travelers require passports and must pass through customs, as Saipan and the CNMI are considered international locations.

Get around

There is no public transport as such, excluding shuttle buses running between hotels and the Duty Free shopping center in Garapan.

By bus

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.

By taxi

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 and Korean immigrants, that will take you anywhere for less than $5.00. 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.

By car

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.

By moped

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.


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.


Scuba diving and snorkeling on Saipan are deservedly the most popular activities here among western tourists, though gambling and karaoke/hostess bars are most popular among Korean businessmen, as well as some Japanese travelers. Garapan is coastally located, so other watersports abound as well. For scuba divers, the term "Fun Dive" is used for those who have already been certified and just want to recreational dive, while "Taiken dive" is used to designate first-time divers that take classes on Saipan. The same is true for the rest of the CNMI and somewhat so for Guam. While boat dives are available, you can still drive to some awesome dive sights, like Grotto. A cavern dive to open ocean is great. If you go outside, you will need a guide. Very easy to get turned around outside and lose track of the tunnel back in.

  • Saipan Scuba [1]- American dive guide/Instructor/Underwater Photographer & Videographer (670) 233-1979 or 670-483-6764
  • Tripper's Tours [2]- Canadian dive Guide/Instructor/Underwater Photographer & Videographer with 15 years experience including 7 on Saipan (670) 285-MIKE (6453)
  • Dive Saipan - Korean dive shop
  • Speedy Tertle- Russian dive shop
  • Aquasmith, - Japanese dive shop Tel:233-5055, [3]. (Scuba diving/Skin diving/Spearfishing catering to Western and Russian tourists, as well as other nationalities and are "local" friendly.

For lengthy descriptions of individual dive sites in Saipan, see the Dive sites of Saipan article.

You may also want to check out one or more of the 5 golf courses. Two were designed by Greg Norman, one by Larry Nelson and another by Graham Marsh. The other course is considered a "local" course. There is also a 9 hole course that is great for beginners.

Recently, Segway of Marianas has started renting out Segway Personal Transporters for use in exploring downtown Garapan at reasonable rates.

The Saipan Hash House Harriers [4] meet every Saturday at 3:30PM at the Bank of Guam parking lot in Garapan to run, hike, jog, climb and otherwise trek through jungle, swamps, mountains, and other terrain. It's usually a great way to meet people and see a side of island life you might not catch otherwise.

Forbidden Island
Forbidden Island

Trekking and other land-based activities are available on the island. The Forbidden Island, originally occupied by evil spirits and now a bird sanctuary, can be reached by an hour's hike from the edge of the town of Kagman on the east coast. Take a snorkel kit to enjoy the diving area between the island and shore.

Most trekking activities will require a guide.

  • Marianas Trekking, Mariana Resort and Spa, 322-0770. Mountain Bike Tours, ATV Tours, and Kayak Tours and all of it is done completely first rate. The guides are super friendly, the equipment is good, and the fun factor and local knowledge is definitely better than anything you could do on your own.  edit
  • Destination Saipan Marketing, Inc., PO Box 503991 Saipan MP 96950, 670-287-8100, [5]. 9am to 9pm ChsT. Destination Saipan Marketing, Inc. is the newest one-stop vacation/relocation package provider on Saipan. Whether you're visiting as a tourist or relocating to the island, you can find and prepay for low cost accommodations, car rentals, and activities (scuba, jetski,cruises,etc.). Their specialty is budget accommodations including home rentals.  edit


Duty Free Galleria, in the center of Garapan, has the top name brands and fashions available for high prices (but supposedly lower rates than in Tokyo). Locally made crafts are available in some stores on the islands, but check first to make sure the items were not manufactured in the Philippines, Thailand, or Indonesia.

The largest locally owned souvenir store is La Moda Isla [6]. It's located on the north side of DFS Galleria. It's got a full selection of island oriented merchandise both made locally and throughout Asia. They've got a snack bar with free wifi.

There is a tiny branch of Bestseller Books, packed full of the latest titles as well as magazines and travel guides, in the Joeten Susupe shopping center. Music And, further south on Beach Road, carries discs by local musicians.

One of the classic adventures on island is a bike tour done by Marianas Trekking up on the North Coast. The guides take you up by van to the top of Suicide Cliff and then you can ride down, with stops at all of the historical sites, and a snorkeling stop at the Blue Grotto. The tour breaks for lunch at Mariana Beach and ends at the Mandi Asian Spa. It is a treat.

  • Fu Dogs & Qi, [7]. Tourists and residents alike may enjoy a browse through the uniquely named Fu Dogs & Qi (pronounced chi), Saipan's only Asian antiques store. One-of-a-kind Jewelry, art, vases, bowls, fu dogs, censers, porcelain, kimonos and more await you.  edit


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

Hard Rock Cafe, Tony Roma's, McDonald's, KFC, 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.

  • Coffee Care, Capitol Hill. Has excellent coffee and some very good homemade pasta dishes, sandwiches, soup, and desserts.
  • Ebisuya, Susupe. Fresh bread, sandwiches, sushi, and homemade soup.
  • Wild Bill's Bar & Grill, Beach Rd, Garapan, [8]. Great omelets, hash browns, and pancakes.
  • Winchell's. For donuts and coffee.
  • Bobby Cadillac's. A casual deli and pizza spot with a bar. Hot pastrami on rye with melted swiss cheese!
  • Hamilton's Bar & Restaurant. Best pizza in Saipan. Their seared ahi great.
  • Hong Wan, (On Beach Road, central Garapan), 233-7259. Sichuan, Shandong, and Pekingese cuisine. mid-range.  edit
  • Ubu, (On Micro Beach Road, central Garapan), 233-8701. 11:30-14:30, 18:30-23:00. Japanese cuisine. It's a branch of a restaurant in Tokyo, so it's fairly authentic. mid-range.  edit

Drink and Eat

Karaoke/Hostess Bars abound in Garapan all of which allow ample drinking opportunities if one is so inclined.

Coffee Care Saipan, is located part way up Capitol Hill road, is a great place to eat or enjoy some fine coffee. Need a ride? Call 323-5282. Or, send e-mail

Thai House, next to the Cabrera Center in Garapan. Call them at 235-8424 for a ride.

The Hyatt has the best Sunday Brunch in the Asia/Pacific region, according to some travelers. Don't miss it.

The Spicy Thai Noodle Place (Tel : 235-8603) in San Antonio next to the Thailand Food Store has excellent Thai food.

Oleai Beach Club is a great 'sunset' bar and lunch spot on the beach in San Jose Village. It's popular with the locals because of their lunchtime $1 Taco Special.

Giovanni's at the Hyatt Hotel in Garapan offers the best Sunday Brunch in the Pacific for $34.00. Reservations are a must. The Hyatt also has a daily buffet lunch for $20.00

Saipan finally has a multiplex theatre run by Wallace Theaters. Now with first run movies with Dolby Digital sound.

If you like to run, drink beer or both, there is an active chapter of the Hash House Harriers (a drinking club with a running problem) on Saipan. The Saipan Hash House Harriers meet every Saturday at the Bank of Guam building in Garapan at 3:30 PM in 'Winter', and 4:00 PM in 'Summer'. Join the Hash if you'd like to meet some folks from Saipan, see some of the lesser known areas of the island, and enjoy a bit of outrageous partying. The cost is US$10.00 per person for the run, all the beer, soda and junk food you can consume, and all the fun you can handle. The Hash also has a home page.

For those with a different idea of 'fun', there are plenty of night clubs, strip joints, karaoke bars and massage parlours.


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.

  • Gold Beach Hotel, Garapan. $30 per night if you can prove you're a local resident.
  • Valley Inn, Monsignor Martinez Highway, As Lito, Tel.: +1 670 234-7018/28 , [9]. A nice secluded hotel near the airport, that offers weekly rates and includes a business center.
  • Saipan World Resort, Susupe, tel. (670) 234-5900, [10]. Massive hotel with all the facilities you'd expect set on a beautiful beach. The best thing to do here is to borrow a kayak (free), paddle out to the rusting tank hunks a few hundred meters offshore, tie up your boat and dive in to see the corals and fish lurking nearby. Rack rates from a ludicrous $195 per night.
  • Hyatt Regency Saipan, P.O. Box 5087, Capitol Hill Rural Branch, +1 670 234 1234 (), [11]. 5 star hotel with 325 rooms and suites. Set on the beach front and amidst tropical gardens. The hotel has a pool bar, a beach bar and a spa.  edit
  • Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan, Coral Tree Avenue, Garapan, tel. (670) 234-6412, [12]. Located in the heart of Saipan's Tourism district, on the white sands of Micro Beach , near shopping centers and nightlife, the Fiesta Resort and Spa, Saipan is a leading resort in the Northern Mariana Islands.


Many hotels and restaurants on Saipan now offer free wireless internet access to customers that bring their own laptops, including Coffee Care, McDonalds, Wild Bill's in Garapan, Java Joe's in Dandan, and Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan in Garapan. La Moda Isla in Garapan offers free wifi in its snack bar area.

  • Information Technology Center, Joeten-Kiyu Public Library, Susupe. The best place to get online on Saipan.
  • Managaha Island. A small island sheltered in a lagoon, this is Saipan's best spot to snorkel. There are even some introductory scuba trails laid out in rope on the sea bed, which also make for great snorkeling sightseeing tours. You have to pay for the boat ride out, but it usually includes lunch. There are amenities out on the island. It takes about 15 minutes to walk completely around the island. It really is a great place to snorkel. Take a small container of cooked rice with you in the water and feed the tropical fish. All the colors of the rainbow, like swimming in a fish tank!
  • Tinian Island is just three miles away across the Saipan Channel.


According to the 3 October 2007 Saipan Tribune, "tour agents have been reported to be overcharging customers while deviously forcing tour operators to bid against each other". An official interviewed about the matter rhetorically asked, "Tourists who have been ripped off may not complain, but once they got home, what kind of stories would they tell about our island?"

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Simple English

Saipan (IPA: [saɪ'pæn], [saɪ'pɑn], or ['saɪpæn] in English) is the largest island and capital of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a chain of 15 tropical islands which are part of the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean (15°10’51”N, 145°45’21”E) with a total area of 115.39 km² (44.55 sq mi). The 2000 census population was 62,392.[1]

Saipan is located at latitude of 15.25° north and longitudeof 145.75° east, about 200 km (120 mi) north of Guam. Saipan is about 20 km (12.5 mi) long and 9 km (5.5 mi) wide. It is a popular tourist destination in the Pacific.

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