Saipan

Saipan

Saipan, as the capital, is the largest and most populated island in
The Marianas.

This tropical paradise offers beautiful white sand beaches with crystal clear water and pure, fresh air. Warmth is in the air and in the people you will meet. It is a throwback to a relaxed lifestyle coupled with modern hotels, incredible sights, adventurous activities, and shopping. Garapan is the epicenter of activities with many restaurants, bars, and shopping options.

A Magical Destination

Saipan is located about 120 miles (190 km) north of Guam and 5 nautical miles (9.3 km) northeast of Tinian, from which it’s separated by the Saipan Channel. Saipan is about 12 miles long and 5.5 miles wide. It’s the principal island and major commercial center of the archipelago.

The Chamorro and Carolinan are the indigenous people of The Marianas. With a friendly spirit, locals are warm and welcoming.

Garapan, the Epicenter of Activities

Alongside all of Saipan’s amazing history and prehistory going back 4000 years resides a fringe of new, modern resort hotels, restaurants and shopping venues worthy of a spot on Fifth Avenue. Considered the downtown district, Garapan is where most of the restaurants, bars, and shopping centers are located.

Immerse Yourself

Throughout the year, a variety of festivals celebrate Chamorro, Carolinian and international cultural traditions in song, dance, crafts and food. There’s no better place to start than the weekly Garapan Street Market in the heart of the main tourist district of Saipan.

Lively markets are famous for delicious traditional foods while showcasing local arts and crafts. Be sure to visit during the annual Flame Tree Arts Festival, where the traditional Carolinian Stick Dance is just one of the many exciting performances to see.

Saipan Has Nearly 4,000 Years of History

The island’s turquoise lagoon hides wrecks and remnants of the Pacific War and is a snorkeler’s and scuba diver’s paradise found. Towering cliffs and a pristine jungle lures hikers with caves still filled with the detritus of a war now remembered by ceremonies held at inspiring peace memorials built by many nations.

Historic Sites

Learn about the island’s past! Fill up on history at the many cliffs, caves, peaks, and breathtaking view points that offer you a glimpse into the rich history of this amazing island.

Last Command Post

The Last Command Post is a reinforced cave constructed by the Japanese military in early 1944 and served as a component of Japan’s World War II defensive fortification system from attack by American forces. Although the island was declared secured on 9 July 1944, sporadic fighting continued for weeks. The actual last command post of Lt. General Yoshitsugu Saito was a cave, in a valley behind San Roque Village, from which Saito issued a final all-out counter-attack before committing suicide on July 7, 1944. Several guns and other military equipment were placed on static display in front of the Last Command Post in the 1960s.

Banzai Cliff

An indentation off the coastline between Puntan Sabaneta to the west and Puntan Lagua Kattan to the east, the cliff sits 30 meters high on an area called Banaderu, a Chamorro word for muddy or wet place, suggesting a prior existence of wetland.

During the final days of World War II, hundreds of Japanese and Okinawan civilians, rather than face capture, jumped off the high sea cliffs, due in no small part to Japanese propaganda that described enemy troops as beasts. Soon after, this stretch of shoreline became known as Banzai Cliff, a designation that is still used today. In 2005, Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Banzai Cliff to pray for the souls of those who perished in the Battle of Saipan.

Suicide Cliff

Rising over 800 feet, Suicide Cliff juts out over the relatively flat plains of Marpi.  This site is where many Japanese civilians and soldiers jumped off of the high cliffs rather than surrender to the American forces in the last days of the battle for Saipan. Memorials to the deceased are speckled along the cliff’s edge. Unobstructed views of the northern tip of the island, an abandoned WWII airfield, and Banzai Cliff, can be seen from the lookout points. Suicide Cliff has also served as a launchpad for hang-glider competitions and as an access-point to the “Banadero Trail,” a hiking path that leads to the Last Command Post.

Sleeping Lady

Looking up towards the mountains coming down from Suicide Cliff, one is entranced by an outline of the natural landscape that resembles a large lying figure of a sleeping lady. Not unlike the story of Gaia, the landscape comes with its own set of spiritual legends.

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Kalabera Cave

One of the great wonders on Saipan, this important cultural and historical site takes its name from the Chamorro and Spanish word meaning “skull.” The walls were decorated with pictographs or rock art drawn by ancient Chamorro artists hundreds or even thousands of years ago. The cave was also used as a burial site, signaling the powerful meaning the place held for the ancient people of The Marianas. The inner formations of the cave resemble a skull. Remaining artifacts underscore the spiritual resonance of this site well worthy of our respect.

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Mt. Tapochau (Okso Tapochau)

Comprised of uplifted limestone, Mt. Tapochau (Okso Tapochau) stands as the highest point on the island of Saipan. One is afforded a majestic view of Saipan and nearby Tinian and Aguiguan from its summit. Thousands of Catholics trek up each Good Friday to plant a large wooden cross. The ancient Chamorros may have used the mountain as a navigational landmark, a function it continues to serve today.

Isley Field

Named after Lieutenant Commander Robert Henry Isely, who was one of the first fatalities of the WWII Battle of Saipan, this Japanese military airfield was operational by 1941. Its single runway was servicing both fighter and bomber aircrafts. The facility was also equipped with a reinforced concrete building complex that included fuel storage bunkers, air raid shelters, and operations buildings. For much of the war in the Pacific, the Naval Airfield served as a staging area for Japanese aircrafts to other parts of the Pacific. The situation had reversed itself by June 1944 as the airfield became a target for American carriers that attacked the airfield in advance of the American invasion of Saipan.

Thousands of marines and soldiers came ashore to wrestle the strategic island away from its determined Japanese defenders on June 15th. Isely Airfield fell to the 27th Army Division on June 18th and they immediately began repairs for use by American planes. The operational objective for the Battle of Saipan was to establish an airfield from which the B 29 bombers could be launched against Japan. In 1975, Isely Field became the Saipan International Airport.

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Bird Island (Isleta’n Maigo Fahang)

Situated in a picturesque bay in Saipan’s rugged northeastern coast, the tiny, rugged island is separated from Saipan by a fringing reef, a narrow stretch of shallow lagoon and a lovely white sand beach. During the Japanese administration, the island was known as tsukimi or “moon viewing island.” So named for the hundreds of birds that nest there, Bird Island is a must-see attraction in Saipan. One of the marine sanctuaries where fishing is strictly prohibited, it is also one of the three areas on Saipan with volcanic deposits.

Catholic Church Bell Tower

Located adjacent to Garapan’s Kristo Rai Catholic Church, the “original” bell tower built by Spanish Jesuit priests in the late 19th century no longer remains. The tower that stands now dates back to 1932 as the only remnant of Our Lady of Carmel (known as Kristo Rai Church today).

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Mount Carmel Cathedral

Built by community and surplus building materials supplied by the U. S. military, the present Mount Carmel Cathedral sits on the pre-war Japanese sugar mill (NKKK) site. With beautiful stain glass windows and flavor all its own, Mount Carmel Cathedral has been serving as the religious and social center of the island since 1949.  The Bishop of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, directly appointed by the Pope at Vatican City, holds weekly services here. Visitors are asked to respect the Cathedral grounds by remaining silent and well-mannered.

Sugar Dock

Under the direction of Haruji Matsue, the Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha (NKKK) established the sugar industry on Saipan. All three major plantations: As Lito, Chacha (Kagman), and Marpi Point provided tons of cane that were processed in the sugar mill and taken to Sugar Dock to be shipped to Japan. After the capture of Saipan during World War II, Sugar Dock was used by the U. S. military. Several intact Japanese Zero fighter planes were taken to Sugar Dock for shipment back to the United States. One of the planes is now on display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Today, Sugar Dock launches boats and is a favorite swimming area for island residents.

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Chalan Kanoa Village

Prior to Japanese administration, the Chalan Kanoa area served as a large coconut plantation for the copra trade and cattle husbandry that served as one of the five Spanish crown deeds. It bears a name from a long line of water troughs for the cattle. In 1916, two Japanese firms attempted to establish sugar industry on Saipan. One failed, stranding about 1,000 imported Japanese laborers with their barracks in Chalan Kanoa. The second, headed by Haruji Matsue, succeeded and Chalan Kanoa became the site of a mill town for hundreds of laborers who worked in the nearby sugar mill. Only Japanese and Okinawans resided in Chalan Kanoa in the pre-war years.

Following the Battle of Saipan, the village was used as a civilian camp where Chamorros and Carolinians were provided emergency shelter and food.  Following the closure of the camp in July 1946, Chalan Kanoa became the largest residential village on Saipan.  Historical remnants from the Japanese administration can be seen throughout the village including two well-preserved wooden residences.

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Sugar King Park

Located adjacent to Garapan Central Park, the park is dominated by a larger-than-life sized statue of Matsue Haruji (1876-1954), the Japanese entrepreneur who established the highly profitable sugar industry in the islands in the early 1920s. In 1932, the Japanese government erected the statute for Matsue who was known as the “Sugar King” by that time. A locomotive – German designed and built – the only one extant on Saipan, that once pulled rail cars loaded with sugar canes, stands next to the former Japanese teacher’s house.

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