Saipan is the largest, and the capital, island in the NMI.
The NMI is known for its historical wartime legacies and breathtaking sights that are rich in culture and traditions. According to the Marianas Visitors Authority’s Annual Report, over 600,000 visitors came to the NMI in 2017.
If you plan on visiting Saipan and would like to know a bit more about the island, below are 50 facts that might be interesting to know about Saipan and the NMI.
Saipan Fun Facts
1. Saipan is home to the Mariana fruit dove, white-throated ground dove, golden white-eye, Micronesian myzomela, and the Saipan reed warbler.
2. There are only FOUR drive-through F&B BUSINESSES –
McDonald’s, Cha Cafe & Bistro, Daniel’s Coffee, and BAB Korean Restaurant.
3. The NMI flag, which was adopted in 1985, represents
The United States (the star), the Chamorros (the latte stone), the Carolinians (the mwarmwar), and the Pacific Ocean and the Mariana Trench (the blue background).
4. Taotaomona Trees (“Ancestral Spirit” or “People of the Past”) are highly respected by locals due to the spiritual beliefs that they represent spirits of their ancestors.
5. There are two “official” seasons –
Dry (December – June) and Rainy (July – November).
6. Saipan is a predominantly Catholic- and Christian-based religious island.
7. The NMI is known for their water sports and activities.
8. Pride Month was first proclaimed in the NMI in 2016 and has been celebrated annually in June.
9. The NMI was selected to host the Pacific Mini Games in 2021, but due to the pandemic and the rebuilding of the island from the last major typhoon, the games were postponed and held in June 2022.
10. It is not safe and sanitary to use tap water for drinking and cooking in the NMI mainly due to the water being unfiltered and often mixed with chlorine.
Residents obtain safe and clean water for consumption by purchasing 5-gallon water bottles from their preferred water companies on the island. The water companies filter their water and package them in 5-gallon bottles that are then distributed to grocery stores, picked up at their water stations, and delivered to residential homes upon phone orders.
11. The legal age to drive is 16; to vote is 18, and to drink is 21.
12. Saipan is historically known as a WWII battleground.
13. K-pop videos filmed on Saipan include:
14. Duendes are popular spiritual beings on the island.
When going into forests or interacting with any land in nature, residents are often heard saying ‘excuse me,’ asking permission to pass through or permission to do any intended action in the area so as to give respect to the beings living there.
15. It takes less than two hours to drive from the southernmost point to the northern most point of the island, without pit stops and traffic.
16. Original WWII hideouts and war tanks can still be found around the island to this day.
17. Saipan has 30 official villages, with multiple sub-areas and neighborhoods within these villages.
18. There are grocery markets and stores located within feet of each other.
Most of them are open daily between 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM, with a few being open 24 hours.
19. The NMI governor can run for office once every four years, and serve for two consecutive terms.
20. Like other cultures, Saipan residents have a couple of superstitious beliefs:
A house cannot have the front and back doors facing each other as spirits can pass through the house; it is not advisable to clean at night as it attracts the spirits; pregnant women cannot go out at night on a full moon, and they can’t cut their hair while pregnant.
21. Tinting the windows of personal vehicles are allowed.
22. The NMI celebrates all Federal holidays as well as local holidays, such as:
Commonwealth Covenant Day (03/24), Commonwealth Cultural Day (10/10), Election Day (11/08, according to the CNMI Public Law 12-18, if an election is held on a day other than Saturday or Sunday, the election day shall be a legal holiday within the Commonwealth or in the senatorial or election district).
23. Many residents would locate places by popular landmarks and not by street names.
24. The first governor of the NMI is Carlos S. Camacho (1978-1982).
As of 2023, the tenth and current governor of the NMI is Arnold I. Palacios.
25. It often takes over a week for packages to arrive, even with express shipping.
26. The official languages of Saipan are Chamorro, Carolinian, and English.
Mandarin and Tagalog are also widely used.
27. The fastest speed limit on the island is 45 MPH (highways), while the slowest is 5 MPH (schools).
28. Tourism is the island’s biggest economic-financial provider.
29. The NMI became an unincorporated territory and commonwealth of the United States in 1978.
Since 1986, individuals born in the NMI are U.S. citizens.
30. There are no malls in Saipan.
The biggest shopping centers on the island are T Galleria by DFS and I Love Saipan, both located in Garapan.
32. Saipan is about 12 mi (19 km) long and 5.6 mi (9.0 km) wide, with a land area of 115.38 km2 (44.55 sq mi).
33. It is common for families to continue living together, even when the kids are 18+ years old.
34. Since the late 1970’s the only people to own land on the island are those who are at least ¼ Chamorro or Carolinian descent...
A combination of both, or be an adopted child of a person of NMI descent if adopted while under the age of 18. Lands are often leased to those who are not of Chamorro/Carolinian descent.
35. Typhoons and tropical storms are common natural disasters to strike the islands.
The last major disaster in Saipan happened in 2018 from Typhoon Yutu.
36. There are three political parties in the NMI –
Democratic, Republican, and Independent.
37. For graduations, graduates are traditionally given woven leis made out of t-leaves, beaded necklace, and/or mwarmwars to wear with their cap and gown.
38. Saipan has one of the cleanest airs in the world.
39. The NMI Coastal Resources Management has allocated Mañagaha Island, Bird Island Sanctuary, Forbidden Island Sanctuary, Tinian Marine Reserve, and Sasanhaya Bay Fish Reserve (Rota) as ‘No-Take Marine Conservation Areas.’
There is no fishing, no spearfishing, no stepping on corals, no taking sand, shells, or corals, and no feeding fish in these Marine Protected Areas. In addition, there is no taking of Trochus at the Lighthouse Reef Trochus Sanctuary and no taking of Sea Cucumbers at the Laolao Bay Sea Cucumber Sanctuary.
40. Some of the island’s most popular and iconic foods are:
Apigigi, Chicken Kelaguen, Tamales Gisu, Charakilis (grinded rice that is fried and toasted, then turned into soup, and tuna, corned beef, or chicken is added).
41. It is common for pet cats and dogs to stay outdoors, within the vicinity of the residents’ property.
The dogs are often a great way to alert owners of strangers entering their property.
42. The vast majority of the population in the NMI resides in the southern islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
Most of the islands to the north are home to active volcanoes.
43. Money is the most common gift for birthdays and holidays.
44. There is a 0% sales tax rate in the NMI.
This is because the prices of goods and services already include tax and are therefore firm (but still applicable for discounts and other offers).
45. The NMI has been deemed as the United States’ “hidden gem”.
46. HOUSE NUMBERS ARE CURRENTLY BEING IMPLEMENTED TO THE HOMES AND BUSINESS BUILDINGS.
Packages and paper mail are still being delivered and received at the only USPS location on the island. There are multiple private mailbox offices (PMB / P.O Box) throughout the island where the owners of these offices pick up the mail from the main office and residents will be able to pick it up from their office with their designated P.O. box number.
47. Beach gatherings are a popular pastime hobby for families and friends.
48. Saipan holds the most consistent temperature year-round, varying by only three degrees.
49. Saipan has some of the most breathtaking sunsets in the world.
50. The NMI is a multicultural, multiethnic landscape that, without pause, comes together during challenging times and rises victoriously.
What are some other interesting facts that you know about Saipan or the NMI?