Saipan, rich in culture and history, is a quick and relatively inexpensive plane ride from Japan. It’s a commonwealth of the U.S. and thrives on tourism.
My husband and I recently visited this island and were pleased that we did. There are many hotels to stay at on the island, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, because it is within walking distance of many shops and restaurants. It is also within walking distance of the American Memorial Park, which is a great site to visit wile staying in Saipan. The hotel has a lovely beach, with a bar and restaurant that serves beverages and food. The island here is protected by a coral reef, and at low tide you can walk into the ocean forever and only be waist deep. We know of people who stayed at the Pacific Islands club and also had a wonderful time.
Saipan is a small island, and I’ll be honest, I was nervous that we would run out of things to do. However, we were there for four days and were busy the entire time. We rented a car from our hotel and drove to the various sites. My husband and I discovered many historical sites and museums, and were amazed by the preserved WWII history. We saw the last Japanese Command Post, the Banzai Cliffs, WWII pill boxes, bomb shelters and more. All were easily accessible and many had plaques with the detailed history. My favorite was a WWII tank that is partially submerged in the ocean. At low tide, you can wade out to the tank and climb on top of it, and/or snorkel around it.
So perhaps all that sounds boring, not to worry, the island has hiking and snorkeling, and is a diving mecca for those with a diving certification. Not certified? Not to worry, many dive sites are open to snorkeling as well, and you will find all kinds of colorful fish and wildlife. Just outside the hotel, while wading and snorkeling, my husband and I witnessed a stingray that came within feet of us. There is also a boat ride to Managaha Island, a popular place to snorkel and sunbathe (my husband and I did not go there, but have heard it’s a great day trip). We also hiked down to Bird Island, just off the eastern coast (shown in picture). The water was crystal clear and there were tons of fish. When hiking, I recommend being prepared and bring plenty of water, food and sunscreen.
The culture and food is also a great draw for tourism in Saipan. On Tuesdays, the island has a Tuesday Market, where locals come out and sell their wares and food. There is a stage for performances, island dancers and fire throwing. The market is within walking distance from the Hyatt Regency. There are many great restaurants, but my two favorites were the Café at the Park, just across the street from the American Memorial Park; it serves coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is great and much less expensive than at the hotel. It’s run by locals who have a great sense of humor and excellent customer service. The second is La Trattoria, a reasonably priced Italian restaurant, great for a date night, and serving one of a kind wines. La Trattoria requires a car or taxi, the hotel will help you locate it.
TIPS AND TRICKS: Plane tickets cost $300-$500, and only take about 3.5 hours direct (we used Delta). Let your hotel know that you are active duty, and you will likely receive huge discounts. Bring your own snorkel gear to save money on rentals. Buy food and snacks outside the hotel to save money. If you have any tips and tricks to share, please post them in the comments below.
We would love to hear about your experience in Saipan. Please share any other information and pictures by emailing the editor, or commenting below. Happy travels! Michelle Nexon, May 2015.