11 Things to Eat, See & Do in Saipan

Banzai Cliffs Saipan

I wasn’t prepared to like Saipan so much. Coming from the neighboring island of Guam, which is larger and more developed, perhaps I had a prejudice. Saipan surprised me with its raw beauty, refreshing trade winds, and precipitous cliffs. Read more about The Most Beautiful Island in America You’ve Never Heard Of.


These breathtaking cliffs mark the tragic suicides of Japanese citizens and soldiers. This popular tourist site is one of Saipan’s most dramatic lookouts. Sea turtles float in the heaving turquoise waters below.

Banzai Cliffs Saipan Banzai Cliff Saipan


Saipan is admittedly casual, but Giovanni’s is an upscale option for Italian-food lovers. It was perfect for our date night dinner — strolling the Hyatt Regency Saipan at dusk was equally romantic — and the food was excellent. We ordered salad, cioppino, and pumpkin ravioli and I highly recommend all three.

Giovannis Restaurant Champagne Saipan Salad Giovannis Restaurant Saipan


This popular swim hole is also a diver favorite, but rough currents make it dangerous at times. The Grotto was closed to swimmers when we visited, but the lookout above provides sweeping views of the island’s profile.

Grotto Saipan


Bird Island is my second favorite natural site on Saipan. The inaccessible island isn’t one you visit, rather one you admire from above.

Bird Island Jess Saipan Cliff Bird Island Saipan


Just across the road from Banzai Cliff was the strategic last command post of the Japanese during WWII. This cliffside cave served as a bunker. You can walk through the cave as well as see war-beaten Japanese canons and tanks around the property.

Last Japanese Outpost Saipan Last Japanese Outpost SaipanLast Japanese Outpost Tank Saipan


Located in the tourist hub of Garapan, this unassuming restaurant is a colorful concrete house. The lunch buffet made me cry — happy tears from, you guessed it, the very spicy noodles. There were plenty of non-meat options, which is always desirable for a pescetarian like me. Highly recommended!


This bar and grill is slick, but welcoming and serves up inventive seafood with sea views. The garlic octopus was savory and had the perfect char and the crabmeat stuff ahi had a crunchy panko-seaweed wrap.

Ahi Crab Roll Naked Fish Restaurant Saipan Naked Fish Octopus Restaurant Saipan


This tiny, uninhabited island is perfect for a day trip filled with water activities. Pretend you’re a castaway or simply snorkel the island’s vibrant waters.

Saipan Island Girl Beach

Managaha Island Saipan


The Garapan Street Market is held every Thursday night in front of the Fiesta Resort from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Most of the local restaurants have booths where you can choose five selections for $5. Live traditional music and/or dancers begin at 6:00 p.m. Admission is free.


Located just off the east coast of Saipan, Forbidden Island rewards its visitors with breathtaking views, a pristine marine environment, hidden pools, and a cave. The hike takes about an hour.


Another sunny bit of WWII history, Suicide Cliff is where an unnumbered many of Japanese soldiers and civilians jumped to their deaths to escape capture by the Americans. There isn’t much to see on the cliff itself, but the location affords sweeping views of the coast and jungle.

Suicide Cliff Aerial View Saipan Suicide Ranch Saipan

Four Fabulous Days in Saipan

Sunset Beach Ocean Saipan

Saipan Cliffs Ocean

By Christy Sutton

People say that the best time to visit Saipan is when the flame trees are blooming—April through August. We somehow missed that memo. And while that sounds breathtaking, we are of the working class and found it far more convenient to go during the holidays. With that said, we were delighted with our four-day excursion.

It all began at Guam’s A.B. Won Pat International Airport where we spent an hour and a half awaiting our forty-minute plane ride to Saipan. The flight is very pleasant—the crew accustomed to their quick hop from Guam to Saipan and back several times a day—just enough time to pass out water and a packet of cookies.


Once we arrived in Saipan, we stayed with friends. However, we did take some time to tour the grounds of two hotels—The Hyatt Regency and Pacific Islands Club (PIC).

The Hyatt Regency is located at the center of the island near shopping, entertainment and restaurants—a half hour drive from the airport. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the hotel’s nicely lit gardens after dinner one evening.

PIC (pictured below) is located near the southern tip of the island. With its views of the Philippine Sea, tropical gardens, numerous restaurants and waterpark, it is a destination in itself. It is only two and a half miles from the airport.

PIC Saipan


We arrived in the early afternoon and so had just enough time to explore some of the historical sights after settling into our room.

First stop, the Old Japanese Jail, which can be found along Middle Road in Garapan, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. If not maintained, the jungle would surely overtake the crumbling structures. Still standing are the Mess Hall, Main Jail and Women’s Quarters.

After exploring tOrchids Flowers Saipanhis historic site we enjoyed a pleasant drive north. Saipan is covered in lush, green vegetation and brightly adorned with flowers and a variety of bird life. The western side of the island is lined with sandy beaches while the eastern shore is composed primarily of rugged rocky cliffs.

Our next stop was a visit to the Last Japanese Command Post. We climbed the stairs to a bunker, which was captured in the summer of 1944 after heavy fighting. Also onsite, in the shadow of tall cliffs and looming flame trees are several Japanese war relics.

Further up the road we came to Banzai Cliff (pictured at top) where 1,000 Japanese civilians lost their lives in the last days of the Battle of Saipan, some jumping from the cliff. A memorial sits atop the cliff. The waves crash below.

Later that evening we gathered with friends at a local favorite, The Naked Fish. It is a trendy restaurant situated near the water in Garapan. The food is delicious and fairly priced. On occasion they have live music.


After a slow morning, we met friends for diving. Our first choice was to dive The Grotto, very near Banzai Cliff. It is100 steps down into a cavern to enter the water. Before lugging all of our gear down the steps we opted to check the conditions first. We descended the stairs to find the water rough and churning. A little too rough for a dive!

So we decided to drive to Lau Lau Beach, one of Saipan’s most frequently visited sites with easy beach access. Once in the water, we encountered a barracuda, which dashed thru a bait ball momentarily scattering fish. We also enjoyed watching the soft corals move with surge of the water.

For dinner we dined at Truong’s Vietnamese Restaurant. We were quite impressed by their Pho (noodle soup) and fresh spring rolls. We were surprised to find out that they have another restaurant on Guam.


Fish Underwater Saipan


For lunch we dined at Furusato Japanese Restaurant where we sat at low tables in the traditional Japanese style. We bowed to the experience of our friends and had them order for us. We enjoyed deliciously grilled fish, miso soup and rice.

After a more than satisfying dining experience we visited Mount Tapochau, the highest point on Saipan. It is located in the center of the island, offering a 360-degree view. The road to the top is pretty rugged, requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle, but the view is well worth the bumpy ride.

Aerial Photo Saipan


On the final day of our visit to Saipan we enjoyed the company of our friends, a beautiful stroll through their garden and half price tapas and cocktails at PIC. With its close proximity to the airport, it was a perfect spot for happy hour and watching the sun go down with our toes in the sand!

The island of Saipan still calls to us! We hope to return someday soon when the flame trees are in bloom and The Grotto is just right for diving.

Sunset Beach Ocean Saipan

The Most Beautiful Island In America You’ve Never Heard Of

Title Card Most Beautiful Island Saipan

Title Card Most Beautiful Island Saipan

Saipan could be another island in the Philippines — except it’s nowhere near the P.I. — it’s in the Northern Mariana Islands, the largest of 15 largely uninhabited U.S. commonwealth states. Saipan’sbrilliant red-orange flame trees, picture-perfect tropical waters, and dramatic limestone cliffs make the island an attractive getaway despite being 1,465 miles from Tokyo, the nearest major Asian city. The island holds its own against competition from its larger neighbor, the U.S. territory of Guam, just 190 miles and 50 minutes away by plane. Saipan is the more laid-back cousin of Guam — a place where you can’t rush if you try. It’s a place to unplug (you can’t get cell service on U.S. carriers anyway) and let this tiny, exotic island in the Pacific soothe your techno-weary soul with its unpretentious beach culture, international cuisine, and fascinating history.

Despite being only 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, Saipan has been hot property since it was colonized by the Spanish in the mid-1500’s. The island changed hands to the Germans then the Japanese who by 1943 outnumbered the indigenous Chamorro inhabitants seven to one. Saipanese largely fought on the side of the Japanese when U.S. marines stormed the island in WWII’s bloody battle which led to 1,000 Japanese jumping to their deaths from Saipan’s inland and ocean cliffs.

Saipan Aerial Coast Beach

Korean, Chinese, and Russian tourist arrivals have been on the rise since 2010, just a year after Saipan’s thriving garment industry was completely decommissioned due to reports of exploitation of its immigrant workers. Since the U.S. Federal government imposed minimum wage and immigration laws, Saipan has reinvented itself as the perfect beach escape from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Manila, Hong Kong and Seoul. In fact, Saipan has 30% of the market share of Korean outbound travelers. Despite the Asian influence, Saipan is a quixotic blend of Spanish, Chamorro, and American cultures, most clearly reflected in its excellent food. Its official languages are English, Chamorro, and Carolinian, the latter two being the languages of adventurous fishermen and explorers who deftly sailed across the deepest crevasse in the ocean (yes, any ocean), the Mariana Trench.

While the island’s western coast is lined with resorts and luxury shopping, the rest of the island is a mix of impenetrable pandanus jungles, dirt roads, and rocky cliffs with views more breathtaking than the last. The moment you shed your city skin is the most this tiny island in the middle of nowhere will seduce you completely.

Saipan Island Girl Beach

A Day At The Beach

Families with kids of every size pile out of pick-up trucks and waste no time unpacking canopies, BBQ grills, and coolers. The kids scatter just as fast as the parents get to work on grilling dinner. Pork belly cracks and sizzles on the charcoal grill, wafting smoke across the tree-lined beach. Local interpretations of Bob Marley songs play on the radio. You slink back into your beach chair and gaze up at two acrobatic white terns taking full advantage of the powerful trade winds, which thrust the birds another 50 feet above the tree line. You toss a sliver of pickled green papaya in your mouth, savoring the vinegar and the hot pepper kick at the end. Neighboring Tinian island, just 5 miles to the south west, is famous for its spicy boonie peppers. You pull your straw hat over your head and dig your toes into the silky sand. A stiff breeze rushes through the ironwood pine and coconut palm trees, drying the sweat on your brow.

Saipan Beach Waves Trees

You wake to find a shirtless leather-skinned fisherman pacing the beach and staring intently into the shallow waters. After 20 minutes, he finally casts his net into the ocean. He retrieves the circular net slowly and lays out his catch on the beach. A dozen shiny white fish pop and writhe on the sand. He makes a small trench and pushes the fish into it for safe keeping.

Saipan FIsherman Fish in Sand Saipan Saipan Ocean Pier

Aqua Resort Saipan Saipan Aerial Photo Saipan Fishing Boat Aqua Resort Waiter Saipan Aerial Boat Beach Saipan

Island Idol Saipan Island Girl Beach Walk Saipan Tables Aqua Resort Saipan Blue Kingfisher Bird Saipan Ocean Fishing Boat Saipan Aqua Resort Flowers Beach Saipan Aqua Resort Pool Beach Saipan Fisherman Fish Saipan Boy Pier Water Saipan Parakeets Birds Saipan Island Swimmer Saipan