Saipan -- ideal summer getaway for families
By Lee Hyo-sik
About this time many think about where to go for the upcoming summer vacation.
If you are single, it is relatively easy because all you need to do is pick a place to spend a week-long getaway.
But if you are married with children, it is a different story as you have to satisfy everyone. Husbands may want to hone their golf skills, wives desire luxurious spa and massage treatments, while children are eager to engage in a range of outdoor activities.
If that is the case, there is a perfect place that meets everyone’s needs: Saipan, a tropical paradise offering magnificent beaches, crystal clear blue waters, shopping, a wide range of ethnic food, and a multitude of recreational activities.
Located in the Northern Marianas, Saipan is just four hours by airplane from Korea, with Asiana Airlines operating nine weekly flights between them.
It is one of three major islands of the Marinas along with Tinian and Rota, which offer visitors unique tropical island life and hospitality. Saipan became part of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands in 1986.
``The island has many cultural and historical attractions, world-class golf courses, luxury hotels and homely island inns, restaurants, shopping centers and of course, spectacular scenery ranging from colorful underwater reefs to bird-filled tropical jungles.
Vacationers can engage in a range of outdoor recreational activities,’’ said Angela Youn, a marketing manager at the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA).
She said the number of Koreans visiting Saipan has continued to increase at a double-digit rate over the past few years, adding MVA is making all-out efforts to attract as many Korean tourists as possible this year and beyond.
``The island is a perfect holiday destination for the whole family because everyone can do what they want. Saipan tourism officials have recognized the importance of the Korean market and introduced an array of upgraded programs and services for Koreans,’’ Youn said.
Saipan is a must-go for golfers as it offers something special for every level, from beginner to champion. Courses vary widely in character, but they are all consistent in stunning ocean views and tropical island beauty.
Among others, Lao Lao Bay Golf & Resort is exceptional for its beautiful course setting and state of the art green conditions. It is a multi-recreational facility, equipped with a 36-hole golf course that spreads out along the cliffs by the shore, a modern club house, and comfortable and luxurious accommodations with diverse leisure amenities.
It has two 18-hole golf courses. Designed by Australian legend, Greg Norman, the courses offer not only the best quality play for golfers, but also the best scenery, including a spectacular ocean view.
The 5,900-yard East Course is an outstanding tourist course with breathtaking ocean views, especially on the sixth hole along the cliff-line of Lao Lao Bay. The views are as spectacular as a golfer can find anywhere in the world. It is surely comparable in beauty to the world-famous Pebble Beach in California.
The 6.300-yard West Course is entirely inland, with a panoramic view of Mt. Tapotchao and the Kagman Valley serving as a dramatic backdrop to most of the course. There are several other world-famous golf courses in Saipan, including Coral Ocean Point Resort, Marianas Country Club and Saipan Country Club.
Water sports and other activities
There are a plenty of spots in Saipan where you can experience a wide array of marine-based recreational outdoor activities. But above all, Managaha Island, a 20-minute ferry ride from Saipan, is a must for those seeking to relax on its pristine beach and enjoy various water-sports.
Visitors can try jet skiing, windsurfing, snorkeling, water skiing, sea walking, and banana boat rides. Additionally, they can view the underwater world by boarding a real submarine. This 45-minute underwater adventure takes passengers down 30 meters. It is a great tour for the family to enjoy the magnificent coral formations and various tropical fish.
In Saipan, the Grotto is a great place for adventurous water sports enthusiasts. Widely known as one of the world’s top 10 scuba sites, this huge limestone cavern connected to the open ocean by underwater passages offers a thrill for divers.
The island also provides tourists with an opportunity to explore the island’s jungle. A jungle guide entertains the riders in an open air 4-wheel-drive truck on unpaved roads through lush tropical trees and plants.
Even after the sun goes down, Saipan provides visitors with exciting things to do. Among them, vacationers should check out a dinner show in which local dancers showcase impressive performances to the beat of the island’s traditional music. Dinner is included and guests can participate in some of the show.
If they want to eat dinner while on the sea, a dinner cruise is a perfect choice. It offers fine dining, live music and dancing aboard a yacht. A band plays a variety of songs for your enjoyment.
Those eager to shop should pay a visit to Garapan, the largest village and the center of the tourism industry in Saipan. Garapan is located on the island’s west coast and is home to the majority of hotels, shopping malls, vintage shops and other hospitality-related facilities.
It is always crowded with both tourists and locals all year around for a wide range of festivals. Garapan Street Market is held nightly from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the main tourist district.
It is within walking distance of the Hyatt Regency Hotel Saipan, Fiesta Resort & Spa and other hotels. Over 40 booths offer various culinary fares, as well as locally-made crafts, imported products and other novelties. Live dances and bands begin at 6 p.m.
On July 16 and 17, the 27th Annual Saipan International Fishing Tournament will be held, attracting thousands of anglers from all over the world.
If you are exhausted from engaging in all these activities, it is time for you to pamper yourself with a wide selection of spas available at the hotels and resorts. Inspired by the natural beauty of the islands, the spas in Saipan offer a vacation within a vacation.
Historical and cultural sites
Saipan is also rich in historical and cultural remains. First, explore Banadero Caves, the site of the last command post of the Japanese Imperial Army. You will find World War II guns and cannons, as well as tanks and artillery, which have all been preserved in a limestone cave.
You may also want to pay a visit to Laderan Banadero (Suicide Cliff) where hundreds of Japanese soldiers and civilians plunged to their deaths, choosing suicide over being captured by American forces. If you can get past the name and climb to the top of the hill, you will find spectacular views right across the island.
Nearby Puntan Sabaneta (Banzai Cliff) also offers sheer cliffs and panoramic views out to the ocean.
Visitors then can take the nearby Marpi Pathway and visit the many peace memorials dedicated to the soldiers and families who gave their lives during World War II across the island.
Among them, the beautifully landscaped American Memorial Park, located in Garapan, offers a perfect picnic area and jogging trail. It was built to honor the American soldiers who died during the battle against the Japanese.
There is one more must-visit place for tourists; the Northern Marianas Islands Museum of History and Culture. This internationally renowned museum was once the site of a Japanese hospital. It houses objects which reflect 4,000 years of history and include artifacts that once belonged to the native Chamorro and Carolinian people.
Other popular exhibits include the Spanish, German, Japanese and U.S. Commonwealth periods as well as abundant information on the role that the islands played during World War II.
If you have time, you may also want to check out the exotic tropical flora at the award-winning Saipan Botanical Garden.
To learn more about Saipan visit www.mymarianas.com.