Saipan’s hiking trails lead visitors deep into the towering evergreen forest. The paths wend their way through streams of fresh water and through slippery slopes that are passable by holding on to the ropes placed by man or, respectfully, to the available branches of the trees. Fallen trees and scattered branches also challenge visitors to bend and stretch their way past the obstacles they have created.
These are some of the things I experienced as I hiked my way through the dense forest to reach the beautiful and serene area of Talafofo Falls.
A Bit of Talafofo Falls History
As of writing this post on its initial publication date, I, unfortunately, do not have much information about Talafofo Falls and its history. As soon as I am able to do more research on this beautiful gem, I will be updating this section.
For now, all I know about Talafofo Falls based on the small information I was able to find online and from what friends, who know more about the area than I do, have told me is that Talafofo Falls is a series of small waterfalls with a natural swimming pool that, on the deep end, is about 10 feet deep. When the water is heavily flowing that they also gush through the sides of the falls, they are strong enough to wash the algae on the rocks, thus allowing the water in the swimming area to be evident that the bottom of it can also be seen.
The trail going to the falls and Talafofo Falls itself is on private property.
Visitors are welcome, and if you do decide to hike towards the falls, it is important to have at least one person who is experienced and knowledgeable of the area guide you. It does not matter if you are already with a group of people. The hike to the falls is roughly 45-90 minutes long, depending on the condition of the weather. It is easy for anyone to get lost in these woods, and with no signal in the area for cell service, it is for everyone’s safety to hike with someone familiar with the territory.
When to Visit Talafofo Falls
Talafofo Falls is open to the public at any day and time of the year.
Visitors should keep an eye out for the weather through the weather app and be updated on the news about any heavy rainfall or extreme heat waves.
MONTHS TO VISIT
The dry season (December – June) may allow the trail to be more durable to hike through as the mud will be dry enough to prevent any slips and falls. The falls would still be pouring, but they may not be gushing as strong.
The trail might be more challenging to go through during the rainy season (July – November) as the grounds will be wet and walking through the mud will not be an option. Take more caution and opt to wear hiking boots or any footwear that can handle slippery terrain. On the bright side, the stream leading to the falls and the falls itself will most likely be overflowing, making swimming in the natural pool more exciting.
HOURS TO VISIT
The entire experience of Talafofo Falls occurs within a day, about 5-6 hours in total. This timeframe includes the drive heading to the hiking entrance, the hike going to the falls, time spent at the falls, and the hike heading back to the car.
It is about a 15-minute drive from when you turn into the road going to the trail. The hike is about 45-90 minutes long, depending on the condition of the trail, breaks in between, and any surprises along the way.
If you plan on hanging at the falls for a while, I suggest driving to the trail sometime in the morning, between 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM. To be back at your car before or by sunset, a good time to head back would be between 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM.
FOR YOUR SAFETY, PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO HIKE BACK BY NIGHTFALL OR STAY OVERNIGHT.
Who Can Hike to the Falls
I think that as long as you’re physically able to bend and stretch your body, as well as go up and down slopes, and climb up on rocks, you’ll be able to handle the trail.
Due to the nature of the trail when we hiked in August 2022, I suggest that children younger than 5 years old, and senior citizens older than 55 years old DO NOT attempt to hike on the trail.
Spaces on the trail get tight for a baby carrier, and the path is too unleveled for any strollers to pass through. Even with a backpack, I often found myself accidentally hitting the branches because I didn’t bend low enough to pass through.
The trail is too challenging for senior citizens as it is easy to trip and fall, especially if you don’t watch your footing. Climbing up and down slopes are also causes for the seniors’ safety.
What to Wear
Thankfully, there are only two seasons that the NMI experiences: dry and rainy. Although you do have to prioritize your footwear more during the rainy season, outfits are typically similar throughout the year when hiking on any of Saipan’s trails.
Hats – Brim, snapback, beanie, any head covering to keep your head dry from the rain, and protect your eyes and face from the sun;
Shirts – Casual or long-sleeved shirt or t-shirt, any shirt (not cotton) where you can move around freely and easily;
Undergarments – Sports bra, any kind of material underwear, except cotton;
Bottoms – Hiking trousers, yoga pants, leggings, jogging pants, and like the shirts, any bottom that will allow you to move around freely and easily;
Socks – Anything but cotton fabric;
Shoes – Hiking boots, hiking shoes, running shoes, waterproof shoes, any footwear that you will not only feel comfortable walking for long distances in, but footwear that will protect you from thorns and rocks on the trails, and have good traction for both dry and wet terrains;
Accessories (optional) – Sunglasses, gloves
I’ve learned that it’s best to wear outfits made of polyester, nylon, synthetic, or merino wool fabrics. They prevent sweat from sticking to the skin and dries up the sweat faster.
Avoid cotton and denim fabric outfits. Cotton often tends to retain moisture, meaning that the sweat will stick to your shirt. Denim is simply uncomfortable to hike in. As they do not stretch, they limit your movement on the trail, and once they get wet, they become very heavy.
From my experiences, I and my hiking group had never fussed over layers during a hike on Saipan’s trails. At most, our layers would consist of undergarments, a shirt, a jacket, and a pair of bottoms.
During rainy weather, we might opt to wear a light jacket or hoodie over our shirts or carry them in our backpacks.
For the most part, many of us pay attention to the weather and if we see that it will be raining hard that day, we simply choose to postpone the hike. If it’ll just be light showers, we will most likely still go, and we’ll be wearing a hat and jacket.
SHIRTS VS TANK TOPS
I would personally go with shirts (casual and long-sleeved) as I want protection from the sun and insects. Plus, I prefer covering myself up more, especially when I have to go up or down slopes.
SHORTS VS PANTS
I personally prefer wearing pants to shorts, especially since many of Saipan’s hiking trails have overgrown bushes, grassy patches, and protruding thorns. I get to protect my legs from any accidental scratches, cuts, and bruises.
What to Bring
Water – About 3-4 500mL (16.9 fl oz) bottle-sized water should keep you hydrated during the entire experience;
Two-way walkie-talkies/radios – There is no signal on the trail and the falls for cell service. Have at least two people carry one of these each in case of an emergency;
First-Aid Kit – Safety first, always;
Extra pair of clothes – It might be sunny heading there, but cloudy heading back, or you might want to go swimming and change into swimming clothes or change out of your wet clothes to dry ones before heading back;
Face towel / Body towel – To wipe the sweat away and if you plan on drying off and changing clothes after a dip in the pool;
Snacks – Chances are, you will get hungry by the time you reach the falls. Light snacks, such as chips, fruits, energy bars, and sandwiches are ideal to satisfy your hunger for the time being;
Sunblock – To further protect your skin from the sun;
Toilet paper / Baby wipes – In case nature’s calling;
Trash bag – Like any place you visit, please respect your surroundings, and leave nothing but footprints behind;
Portable charger – In case you’ve taken too many pictures and videos on your phone along the way and your phone is about to die, but you want to continue using it;
GoPro – Excellent if you’d like to video document the entire hike and swimming experience.
Tips and Guides for Hiking to Talafofo Falls in Saipan
Let someone, who will not be part of your hike, know of your hiking plans.
The trail does not appear on any map of the island, and with nature intervening every now and then, accidentally losing track of the trail could happen. This is why it is important to have someone who has been to the falls and is familiar with the trail guide you.
Keep an eye out for the day’s weather forecast. It’ll help you prepare more for your outfit, as well as get an idea of the terrain you might be tackling.
Only take what’s necessary for a safe and enjoyable hike. Avoid bringing any jewelry or other irreplaceable and valuable items.
Eat a hearty breakfast at least two hours before the hike. This not only gives your body the energy it needs to navigate through the forest, but it also gives you enough time to digest and use the restroom beforehand.
Stretch beforehand (your muscles will thank you later!).
Stay on the trail as much as possible to avoid stepping on thorns known as “Nika.” These spikes can pierce through your footwear.
Stay hydrated! Bring at least two 16 fl oz bottle of water with you.
The only other living creatures to be aware of on the trail are insects and amphibians. From what I’ve been told and experienced, there are no harmful creatures in the area.
Pick up a long stick you can use as a walking cane to help you maneuver through tough areas. They help you stay balanced as well.
If you need a break, let the group know and take a break. Do not force yourself to keep going if your body is reaching certain limits.
Leave everything you see as is. Only bring back your personal belongings, as well as any photos you took and memories you gained.
This was the first time that I had ever hiked to Talafofo Falls.
The trip included me and eight other people (seven adults and one 10-year-old). The other adults had been there a couple of times before, and the last time they went was a little over two years ago.
We entered the road going to the trail at around 11:00 AM on a Sunday.
I wore a snapback hat, casual t-shirt, jogging pants, socks, and running shoes.
In my backpack, I brought two bottles of water, extra pairs of clothes, face towels, and a portable charger.
It took us about an hour to reach the falls. Within this hour, we took about a 15-minute break in the middle of giant bamboo trees (which were incredible); and because of the last major typhoon, the forest had a bit of a renovation, therefore it took some time to recognize the usual trail.
The hike itself was a challenge, especially for someone who has not been moving their body a.k.a someone like me.
Going to the falls, the weather was burning hot, but it made the slopes less slippery. We had to go down a couple of slopes by hanging onto the branches or roots of the trees as there were no ropes available. We had to bend and stretch through branches of trees that had fallen, and I remember my bones feeling as if they were experiencing the workout of a lifetime. We walked through a stream for quite some time as it was easier to follow, and I personally enjoyed walking through the water.
If you do walk through the stream, avoid stepping on the rocks as they are highly slippery. Walk through the flat surfaces, and take your time walking.
Once we reached the falls, I initially didn’t know we had reached it until I was told. The moment I knew, I was excited. Of course, I got a little bit scared again when I found out we had to climb up the rocks because I had no experience doing any climbing in nature, but thankfully, I had my friends to guide me, and I found it a lot easier to do than expected.
At the top of the falls, there was this open circular space. In the middle was of course the stream of water, but around it was nature and the place looked incredible. Towards the back, there is a rectangular barrier made of cement that visitors can use to actually sit down on and relax after the long hike. Our group was the only one in the area at that time, which we were happy about.
We spent the first couple of minutes snacking and making conversations. Eventually, the clouds came, and it began drizzling, which made the place look even more magical. The youngest of the group got excited to go swimming, so I and two others decided to head down to the swimming hole below the falls and take a dip.
Since I couldn’t swim, I stayed in the shallow end. At times like this, though, I wished I knew how to swim so I would’ve been able to enjoy being on the deep end, near the actual falls.
The swimming hole was not in the clearest condition, which just meant that no one had visited the place in a long time. Algae was growing on the surrounding rocks.
I was informed that the water is typically very clear that we can see the bottom of the hole. Algae would have also not been around if the area was regularly visited, and the falls were oozing with water.
Also, under any condition, DO NOT drink the water from the falls and within the area. Clear or not, bacteria are abundant in the water.
We spent about an hour in the water, enjoying the serenity of nature and conversing every now and then.
It was beginning to get late, so we eventually went back up towards the resting area and snacked up some more. We were trying to finish as much food as possible to avoid carrying a heavy weight on the hike back.
On the way back, I think my body was feeling exhausted, so I ended up slipping a lot more often than when we came in. It didn’t help that the rain from earlier made the ground wet. At some point, we had to go down a different slope, and I no longer was up to exerting my energy to not fall down, so I slid down the muddy slope…fun.
We made it back to the main road around 4:00 PM.
I absolutely loved being at the falls.
My soul was jumping like a little kid the entire time we were in the water.
I wouldn’t have been able to do this hike without my friends and their family. Their family knew it was my first time going there, and they helped guide me every now and then (my friends of course helped me the most, and the family helped whenever they could as well), and made me feel welcomed even though I had only met them a couple of times.
I am incredibly grateful to have experienced this challenging, but beautiful opportunity and I can’t wait to visit Talafofo Falls again.
If you have visited Talafofo Falls in Saipan before, what was your experience like? If you haven’t visited, would you want to visit?