Marianas Visitors Authority
About the Islands
The Northern Marianas Islands are a tropical paradise offering the relaxing shores of magnificent beaches and crystal clear blue waters, as well as the lively bustle of night life, shopping, a wide range of ethnic restaurants, and a multitude of outdoor activities.
Beach comb the white sand of a lonely pristine beach. Join friends on a sunset dinner cruise where the sun rises in the Philippine Sea and sets in the Pacific. Take a guided mountain bike tour pasted World War II tanks, artifacts, and caves. Read by the pool or sip a tropical drink in the luxuriant garden of a local hotel. ExploreSaipan, Tinian, or Rota, or charter a trip to the remote and northernmost Northern Islands. It’s up to you!
Colorful underwater reef life at sites with names like Eagle Ray City, tropical jungles filled with endemic and elusive endangered birds, indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian lifestyle, World War II relics, biking through quiet jungles, swimming in marine sanctuaries, trekking to unparalleled vistas, ocean fishing, tennis, ocean view golf courses, award-winning diving spots, snorkeling, luxury hotels, homey island inns, restaurants, shopping centers – they all await you in the Northern Marianas Islands!
These islands were first settled around 3,000 B.C. by ancient seafaring people who journeyed in outrigger canoes. They sailed across the vast expaonse of the open Pacific, north and eastward from Southeast Asia. Records in history suggest that the indigenous Chamorros wee originally from Indonesia of the Philippines.
The Mariana Islands were first encounted by the Europeans in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan, a Spanish explorer, during his world exploration in search of gold and spices. In 1668, 147 years after Magellan’s encounter, Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores, a Jesuit priest, arrived in the Mariana Islands with the mission to convert and implement Christianity among the Chamorros-thus beginning the colonization by Spain. The islands were named after Queen Maria Ana of Spain. Led by Chiefs Aghurubw and Nguschul, the settlement of the indigenous Carolinians begans in 1815.
Germany bought the Northern Marianas from Spain in 1899, and the islands remained under German rule until the start of WWI in 1914.
In 1914, Japan took possession of the islands under a secret agreement wiht the British to keep peace in Asia during the war. After WWI, Japan received the islands by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and then later as a mandate under the League of Nationas in 1920. The island became a battleground during the WWII campaign as Japanese and U.S. forces collided to gain control of the Pacific.
The U.S. forces gained control of the Northern Mariana Islands in July 1944. The islands were granted to the U.S. as the UN Trust Territory in 1947. The people of the Northern Marianas decided to enter into a political union with the United States and began self-governing under the commonwealth in January 1978. In November 1986, U.S. citizenship was conferred upon the people of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Remants of these administrative eras are still visable today, from ancient quarries to churches to World War II sites.
Home to two indigenous people, the Chamorros and Carolinians, the Northern Marianas holds to its Pacific Island roots while welcoming people of cultures from around the world who visit, work, and live here. The rich diversity of this heritage allows visitors to find many delightful opportunities to immerse themselves in this rich cultural experience.
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.
Sample local delicacies like the apigigi, a local dessert made with coconut and wrapped in banana leaves and roasted over an open fire.., at the weekly Garapan Street Market. This lively market in downtown Saipan is also famous for its local arts and crafts. Come to the annual Flame Tree Arts Festival, where the traditional Carolinian Stick Dance, an old warrior dance, is just one of the many exciting performances to see. This festival is also where artists from all over Micronesia showcase their masterpieces. Also on Saipan, the Liberation Day Festival is a three day weekend longcelebration of the island’s 1944 liberation from foreign occupancy. The annual Liberation Day Parade is on July 4th, but prior to that, there is a month long carnival at the American Memorial Park for all to enjoy. The crowning of the Miss Liberation Day Queen is one of the highlights of this important celebration. Don’t miss the Taste of the Marianas on Saipan every Saturday in May. The first day of this event kicks off CNMI Tourism month. Here visitors have the opportunity to sample a variety of local and international cuisine prepared by the islands’ top chefs, listen to live local bands and dance, interact with and mingle among the local residents and purchase locally made crafts. The Chefs and Cocktail Competition is the highlight of this event, which continues to grow each year to include chefs from off island as judges for the competition. On Tinian, the annual Tinian Fiesta has food, rides and their own coronation of the Queen. Rota’s San Francisco De Borja Fiesta is this island’s largest and most popular event. This festival is complete with BBQ meals, rides, dancing and the crowning of the Rota Queen.
The Northern Marianas Islands Museum of History and Culture is located on Saipan in the former Japanese Hospital. This museum features exhibits and objects reflecting 4,000 years of history of the Islands including artifacts of the Chamorro and Carolinian people. Also well represented are the Spanish, German, Japanese, World War II and US Commonwealth periods. The permanent collection includes gold, pottery and metal artifacts from the 1638 shipwreck of the Spanish Galleon Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, which was chronicled by National Geographic Magazine in September 1990.
Perry P. Tenorio
Northern Mariana Islands