THE NORTHERN MARIANA Islands (CNMI) in the Western Pacific has the special status of a US Commonwealth. The American influence is strong, although the legacy of Spanish colonial rule can also be seen. Of the 14 volcanic islands that stretch 375 miles north to south in almost a straight line, the southernmost three, Saipan, Rota and Tinian, are the main islands.
For many years the islands were military-dominated and access was forbidden, but that is no longer the case and now the islands attract more cruising yachts every year. Most of these come from Guam, where there is a Northern Marianas representative who can issue the necessary permit to visit the islands.
The southern islands are the more developed, while some of the northern islands are wildlife reserves and cannot be visited. Saipan is a mere 14 miles long and 5 miles wide. Nearly all its northern, southern and eastern beaches are protected by a fringing coral barrier reef, while its easterly side takes the brunt of the storm seas with towering cliffs and rugged rocks.
You can experience a unique blend of WW2 history and tropical beauty as you float on placid turquoise seas in the Northern Mariana Islands. Most facilities are in Saipan, which is the most developed island, attracting the most tourists. Saipan is a modern, clean and thriving community comprising several villages that are more like small towns. Considered to have the best beach areas in Micronesia, there is native dancing, nightclubs, bars, several discos, fine international cuisine, modern shopping malls and plenty of duty free shopping.
The island also boasts modern technological communication, and plenty of recreational facilities including five 18-hole golf courses. Divers will delight in the sunken wrecks from WW2 nestled in the expanse of lagoon waters around Managaha Island, just two miles from Saipan’s Charlie Dock. Visibility under water of up to 50m allows divers to see a fascinating array of wrecks including aeroplanes, submarines, tanks and ships still in good condition. Tinian is less developed than Saipan, but as it has a large farming community, fresh produce is easily available and of good quality.