Northern Mariana Islands — Attractions
The latte stones scattered across many Northern Mariana Islands beaches, such as Obyan and Agingan are remnants from ancient Chamorro homes and villages. Far more recent relics from WWII also survive throughout the islands, but the over 5,200 names inscribed at American Memorial Park are somber reminders of those who lost their lives during this difficult combat. The two cliffs at opposite ends of the last Japanese Imperial Army command post are named Banzai Cliff and Suicide Cliff after the numerous people who jumped to their deaths from both cliffs when the Japanese surrendered Saipan to the Americans during WWII. The whole of Saipan can be seen from Mount Tapochau, once a strategic military spot for both American and Japanese forces.
American Memorial Park
The centerpiece of this Saipan national park is the monument bearing the names of the 5,204 Marianas and American soldiers who lost their lives during the WWII Marianas Campaign. This tumultuous time in Northern Marianas Island history is further depicted in an exhibit hall display. The park also contains a peaceful beach, scenic pathway, playground, and plenty of green space for picnics and active pursuits.
Address: P. O. Box 5198-CHRB, Garapan 96950-5198, Mariana Islands
Last Command Post
The last Northern Mariana Islands command post of the WWII Japanese Imperial Army, called Banadero, was this bunker between two towering cliffs known as Banzai and Suicide. After the Japanese lost the final Battle of Saipan confrontation, several Korean and Japanese residents threw themselves off these cliffs rather than surrender to the Americans. The command post itself is a carefully hidden limestone cave filled with vintage Japanese WWII tanks, cannons, and other military relics. A far older Chamorro basalt pestle stands on the grounds.
Address: As Matuis Drive, 96950, Mariana Islands
As Nieves Latte Stone Quarry
The original Northern Mariana Islands residents, the Chamorro, built their homes and other important buildings from distinctive latte stones. One of the most impressive surviving landmarks from this time period is this giant unfinished limestone quarry near the Rota village of Sinapalo. It is unclear why this impressive project was suddenly abandoned, but some of these megaliths would stand as high as 25 feet and some of their stones date as far back as the year 845.
Address: Sinapalo, Rota
House of Taga
Another impressive example of ancient Chamorros latte stone architecture is this meeting house and temple associated with a mythological chief called Taga. Legend states the spirit of Taga’s daughter, believed to have murdered her father, is imprisoned in the last standing megalith of the 15-foot high series which once led to the structure. A British explorer sketched a dozen upright stones during his 1742 visit to the landmark’s Tinian location.
Address: San Jose, Tinian
The concrete pads placed throughout this high-ceilinged cave on Songsong’s outskirts are the only surviving evidence of the makeshift Japanese hospital established in Tonga Cave during WWII. Many years earlier, locals used this cave as a typhoon shelter. The Little Marianas fruit bat colony that once lived in this cave has been replaced by white fagpi seabirds whose nests are scattered among the stalactites and stalagmites.
Address: Songsong, Rota
The highest of the Northern Marianas Islands peaks stands more than 1,550 feet tall in the middle of the island of Saipan. This presently peaceful limestone peak was once a major battleground between American and Japanese forces during the WWII Battle of Saipan. Today, Mount Tapochau has resumed its traditional status as a place of peace. Each Good Friday, a new cross is erected next to the countless others which have been placed at the summit over the years. Not only all of Saipan, but also the neighboring islands of Aguigan, Tinian, and Managaha can clearly be seen from the top of Mount Tapochau. On clear days, visitors can see as far as Anatahan and Rota.
Address: central Saipan
The ancient pictographs engraved on this Saipan cave’s 33-foot high entrance way are evidence of its importance to the Chamorros people. The Kalabera Cave’s entrance eventually becomes up to 60 feet tall before branching off into a series of endless caverns and tributaries. The skeletal remains of WWII Japanese soldiers and much older Chamorro people lie side by side in the lower caverns, evidence of the cave’s years as a Spanish Chamorro prison and Japanese field hospital.
Address: Kalabera, Saipan
This tiny uninhabited islet boasts a disproportionately large percentage of Northern Marianas Islands water sports opportunities and wide sandy beaches. Legendary Caroline Islands Chief Aghurubw is buried on this island just a leisurely ferry journey west of Saipan. Covered barbecue pavilions are dotted across the coastal trail encircling this island whose interior landscape is a tropical jungle.
Address: Managaha Island