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Saipan Island - Top Tips

Super Seven

American Memorial Park

The American Memorial Park honours both Americans and Marianas who gave their lives during the Marianas campaign of WWII. There's two separate memorials within the park to commemorate each set of soldiers, as well as a small museum and gift shop. Worth noting that the opening hours for the museum are limited. The park is well maintained, primarily by local volunteers who give their free time.

Old Japanese Jail

This abandoned Japanese jail has a haunting history, as it served as the home of American prisoners of war during the bloody Battle of Saipan. There's three jail buildings of the complex remaining, including the cell block, as the metal bars are still visible, in addition to it being isolated from the other building. Overall, the site condition is decaying, but it's fascinating to see writing etched into the walls in both English and Japanese.

Banzai Cliff Monument

A WWII memorial located at the northern tip of the island, which holds great historical significance in regard to the American-Japanese battle. This is the spot where hundreds of Japanese soldiers leapt off the 600 foot cliff and into the sea, rather than being captured by the American military as the battle was drawing to a close. There's a number of memorials such as obelisks and buddhas dotted along this spot, with many of them a mark of respect to the bravery of the Japanese soldiers.

Last Japanese Command Post

This is the bunker that was the last command post of Japanese defenders on the island that were captured back in 1944. Interestingly, the huge hole in the bunker was the cause of a direct hit from a US battleship. You've got many relics in front of the bunker, such as a tank and some missile launchers. There's also a commemorative monument remembering those who lost their life in battle. Be sure to not miss the Korean Peace Memorial, which is located 50 metres to the left of the bunker.

Suicide Cliff

Along the same middle road as the bunker, you'll find the infamous "Suicide Cliff" site, which is where thousands of Japanese leapt to their death in order to avoid being captured by the Americans. The site has essentially turned into a pilgrimage spot for many Japanese tourists throughout the year. For those with additional time, there is a hiking route where you're able to arrive at the top of the cliff, which is also a great viewpoint across the island.

Abandoned Pacific Barrier Radar III Being a keen urban explorer, the drive up Mount Petosukura really was beautiful. Firstly, the road is in good condition, and secondly, there's temptation to stop the car every 5 minutes to take photos of the picturesque view below. For clarity, the view is the same at the top as part-way. The purpose of the drive was to see the abandoned radar tower, which is one of the last remaining Cold War relics on the island. The tower is 40 feet high and although the door is open, the steps have rust away. There's also a fascinating control centre next to the tower also, which is definitely worth a peek inside.

The Beaches Being an island, there's obviously plenty of beaches for those looking to relax and unwind. All of the beaches were clean and well maintained, which was great to see. Some were sandy with shallow water to snorkel, such as Obyan Beach, which had great coral and marine life. Ladder Beach was a little more raw with lots of overgrown vegetation, but sure was a great place to relax and "crab watch". Regardless of your style, there's a beach to suit everyone and all have minimal crowds.

Accommodation Advice

The island is small, so you're never going to be too far away from the main sights, but I feel I landed a winner with Surfrider Hotel. The location is key, as you're within close proximity to the airport, a 10 minute drive from the shopping and entertainment district of Garapan, and you've got great beaches on your doorstep. The rooms are a high standard, WiFi is fast enough to remote work, there's a small gym, and helpful staff on hand when needed. Added bonus is the Great Harvest Bakery next door.

Food Factor

Surf Club Restaurant is on the beach directly behind Surfrider Hotel as was by far the best food spot I found on the island. There's a great menu which includes some local seafood dishes, along with a choice of indoor and outdoor seating. I can definitely recommend the prawn stir fry, followed by the chocolate brownie dessert. Unlike some of the other local restaurants, card payment is accepted.

Good Guide

To see the local spots on the island, I'd definitely recommend renting a car. The island is small, the road conditions are good, and there's not a huge amount of traffic. The local rental company called Islander Rent A Car offered the cheapest rates, but the booking did need to be made via phone, rather than online.


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