Hafa Adai! My name is Luke Scott Fernandez, better known on Instagram as @lostwithlukes. I am 24 years old, born and raised on the island of Guam. I will be sharing my experiences and time on the wonderful island of Saipan which is a neighboring island of Guam. Like Guam, Saipan is part of the chain of islands called the Mariana Islands located in Micronesia.
Saipan is home to two major indigenous Pacific Islander groups: CHamorus and Carolinians. It uses US currency and the main languages used in Saipan are English, CHamoru and Carolinian. My first trip to Saipan was in 2018. I only spent four days there but it was packed with adventure!
After those four days, I was hooked. I would come back every month to visit the friends I made and to experience the magical island of Saipan again and again. In that short time of four days, I hit many touristy sites and did a lot of hikes such as Bird Island, Forbidden Island, Mt. Tapochau and El Toro.
I was so amazed by the fact that despite how close Saipan was to Guam, the water, sand, land and sea were all so different. I made so many great memories in those jam-packed four days which only made me crave for more and that is why I constantly went back to Saipan for more visits.
Why Saipan Should be on your Bucket List
The best way to describe Saipan is that it’s one of the many gems in the Mariana Islands. Saipan’s beaches, waters and sunsets are unlike any other. Truthfully, Saipan has some of the best sunsets I have ever seen in my life. Though the Mariana Islands are close together, they each differ in history, geography, culture and people which makes them all unique.
Saipan is a wonderful place to visit and it’s a world of its own that is rooted in culture, community and family. My favorite place in Saipan is Managaha Island, a smaller island off of Saipan. You can get there easily by taking a 10-15 minute boat ride. When you first arrive you will be blown away!
Managaha is special to me because it takes you away from the main island and all you do is hangout, relax, read, sunbathe, swim and eat: there is no sense of urgency or time pressure whatsoever. In my opinion, the water is clearer and the sand is whiter in comparison to that of the main island.
6 Best Things To Do in Saipan
1. Take a Boat Tour to the Beautiful Managaha Island
A little island off of Saipan with the whitest sands and clearest waters, Managaha Island is a magical place and is a must-visit when in Saipan. Day trips can be made there by scheduled tour boats. I suggest only taking a half-day trip there and then spending the rest on the main island.
When you take a boat tour to Managaha Island, bring your own food, drinks, towels, swimwear, sunscreen, hats, etc. Don’t forget to pick up your own trash, and it doesn’t hurt to pick up the trash that isn’t yours as well.
2. Start a New Day with a Hike to Forbidden Island
Forbidden Island is a cool hike down to this little flat topped island off the shores of Saipan. It’s a great way to start the day since the sun rises in that area. If you do hike all the way down to Forbidden Island, make sure you bring snorkel gear, a towel and water. You will be snorkeling in no time!
3. See Hundreds/Thousands of Birds at Bird Island
Bird Island can be appreciated on top of the designated lookout or you can hike down to Bird Island for some beach fun. The hike is fairly easy but just be cautious of your surroundings as you could fall off the ledge. The island houses thousands of birds. You can often see them flying around the island.
Tip: Don’t fly your drone near Bird Island as the birds will try and chase after your drone. Bring water, snorkels, snacks and a towel if you plan on making it a beach day at the end of the hike (which I recommend).
4. Hike down to “Old Man by the Sea” Beach
Old Man by the Sea is a fun hike! You go through a bit of jungle and then enter a beach area where the rock formation nearest to the seashore is in the shape of an old man. Many locals “kiss the old man” for photo opportunities. Bring a towel and water for a little beach relaxation.
5. Swim and Snorkel around the Grotto Seacave
The Grotto is pretty well known for being a seawater cave that has a deep connecting underwater tunnel to the ocean. If you are looking to swim at the surface level of the cave then bring a snorkel and some fins. Disclaimer: do not try to freedive the Grotto if you are not a highly trained professional
6. Trek up Mt. Tapochau for Panoramic Views
Mt. Tapochau is a great place to see the whole island. When you get to the very top you can see Saipan from end-to-end. It’s a great place to watch the sunrise and sunset. Mt. Tapochau is also a great hike if you like steep mountain hikes, but you can also drive up to the top as well. Note: wind speed is strong at the top of the mountain so I don’t advise flying a drone.
My Favorite Memories from Saipan
My favorite memories from Saipan would be going to Managaha Island and spending most of the day there then making my way to Micro Beach or Mt. Tapochau to watch the gorgeous sunset over the island. Believe me when I tell you that the sunsets in Saipan are unlike any other. The island is pure magic, and I always enjoy myself whenever I get a chance to go back.
I could go on about Managaha, but it’s because this island radiates a magical aura that somehow leaves me amazed by how something so close to the main island of Saipan can feel so far away. The island is perfect with white sands and the clearest waters. I have yet to experience the sunset or sunrise on Managaha but I hope to on my next trip back.
Mt. Tapochau is another magical place because when you get to the very top of the island you can see the two ends of Saipan which is the coolest thing ever! The drive up there is a bit weird because there is a certain point where the road becomes dirt and potholes, but just drive slowly. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset and see the colors of the island change.
Warm & Welcoming Locals of Saipan
The culture in Saipan is deeply rooted in family and community much like nearby Guam. There is never a time when you don’t see people gathered together with good food, music and drinks – whether it’s at someone’s house, at one of the many fantastic restaurants or at the best local beach.
The community in Saipan is warm and welcoming: everyone is more than willing to show island hospitality as long as you return the favor. The local way of living is much like how other folks around the world live everyday, but the only difference is that it’s the island version of everyday living!
People have 9-5 jobs, go home to their families and face everyday issues like the rest of folks. Like Guam, Saipan’s everyday living might be slower than the rest of the world but outdoor activities such as running, hiking and swimming are great pastimes to experience the island in unique ways.
Best Restaurants to Try in Saipan
1. The Shack – Beachside Cafe with Great Food
The Shack is a little restaurant that caters to both vegetarians and vegans! They have a great mix of healthy foods such as smoothies, acai bowls, bbq plates, sushi plates and more. My personal favorites are the acai bowls and the nutella pancakes, which always makes breakfast better. They are open in the mornings and afternoons. It’s a must-try when coming to Saipan!
2. Everest Kitchen – For the Best Napalese Cuisine
A Napalese and Mediterranean style restaurant, Everest Kitchen is a great place for a lunch buffet. I personally go for the buffet but they do tend to fill up fast – trust me! If you do decide to dine there, bring cash. They are open until 2pm. I would suggest using Facebook for restaurant updates.
3. Caravan of Food – Authentic Middle Eastern
The Caravan is a Middle Eastern style restaurant and bakery that serves a great selection of healthy soups, salads and more. I always get their falafels and hummus whenever I dine there. The portion sizes are pretty big and will leave you full. When dining in or taking away, bring cash. They are open from 8am to 3pm. Again, I suggest using Facebook for restaurant updates.
4. Surf Club Restaurant – Amazing Sunset Views
Surf Club Restaurant is a cool place for lunch or dinner. A mix of American and local cuisine, they have options for all. Surf Club has both outdoor and indoor dining. I recommend going for sunset when they have live music. It’s also a hotel with a comfortable and homey atmosphere by the beach.
5. Spicy Thai – Best Thai Food in Saipan
Spicy Thai is a must when visiting Saipan if you are craving Thai. I personally go there for the dinner buffet and my favorite dish is Pad Thai. Spicy Thai is also open for lunch and they have great vegetarian selections. They also offer indoor and outdoor dining. When dining in or taking away, bring cash. They are open from 11am to 9pm. Check Facebook for updates.
6. Himawari Restaurant – On-the-Go Meals
Himawari is a three-in-one consisting of a store, restaurant and hotel. If you are looking for on-the-go meals for a day of adventure, then this is the place to go. They offer a variety of seafood plates, soups and pastries. You can dine in at the restaurant side of Himawari. You definitely won’t regret it!
Visit Saipan for at least Seven Days
If you are planning to visit Saipan, stay for at least seven days. There are so many great adventures to have in Saipan and there is lots to explore. Take it slow and don’t try to pack every hike, beach, etc. into one single day. Enjoy the island and take your time to experience it to the fullest.
For me, coming to Saipan is like entering another world/bubble within the Mariana Islands. Saipan is so unique, much like all the other neighboring islands. From the friendly locals, to the great hikes, to the amazing food – I always leave Saipan wanting to come back in the not too distant future.
Need to Know Before you Go
Some key tips before visiting Saipan would be reading more on the island itself. Find local businesses to support beforehand and plan your trips around some of the annual island festivals. You can find more information about Saipan on their tourism website www.mymarianas.com. More tips:
- Respect locals
- Listen to locals
- Pick up trash even if it’s not yours
- Leave a place as you found it if not in better condition
- Use reef safe sunscreens
- Bring reusable drinking containers
- Bring reusable bags
- Don’t be afraid to try new foods
- Shop and invest in locally owned businesses.