Introduction

The Mariana Islands (the Marianas or Ladrones Islands) are an archipelago of South Pacific islands that are included in the larger group of islands known as Micronesia. The Northern Marianas consist of the three islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, each of which has something unique to offer visitors. The islands are known for their pristine white sand beaches and clear warm waters, as well as for the welcoming hospitality of their people.

Visitors to the Mariana Islands will find exceptional lodging, a variety of ethnic cuisine options, and a list of things to see and do that is so extensive it can't be accomplished in the span of one visit. Once discovered, the Mariana Islands will call you back again.

History

The Mariana Islands have a rich history. It is believed that the islands were first settled 3,000 years ago by people of Indonesian and Malaysian descent. These settlers prospered on the islands and developed a strong culture and community, evidence of which can be seen today in the Latte Stones that were used for the foundations of their homes.

Magellan arrived at the Mariana Islands in 1521. Legend has it that as his ship approached the shore to take on supplies, the islanders stole his skiff. Enraged, he took a group of crew members ashore and retrieved it, leaving several fallen islanders in his wake. The Mariana Islands were given the name Islas de los Ladrones (Land of Thieves) and it was nearly 150 years later when the first Spanish missionary arrived that the Mariana Islands were no longer considered the Land of Thieves.

The Mariana Islands have played an important role during times of world conflict. After the Spanish-American War, Germany bought the islands from Spain, with the exception of Guam, but lost them to Japan during World War I. During World War II, the Marianas were the scene of fierce fighting between American and Japanese troops, and the planes that carried the first atomic bombs used in warfare were launched from the island of Tinian. After the war, the islands were turned over to the United Nations and later returned to self-government, with the Northern Marianas choosing to align with the American political structure in 1975.

Famous Attractions

Although exploration of the many beautiful beaches located on the Mariana Islands is a favorite activity among tourists who enjoy world-class diving and snorkeling, the islands do have much more to offer. The CMNI Museum of History and Culture on the island of Saipan provides a view into the islands' past, and an afternoon spent at the Saipan zoo introduces visitors to some of the animals indigenous to the Mariana Islands. The Saipan Botanical Garden, located on the southern end of the island, is home to some of the most exotic tropical plants anywhere. Saipan also provides some of the most breathtaking sites imaginable, like the views from Island Maigo Fahang (Bird Island) and Laderan Banadero (Suicide Cliff).

Tinian and Rota are great destinations for visitors who are looking for seclusion, fantastic scenery, and a chance to view the Mariana Islands' flora and fauna in its natural habitat. Latte Stones from the House of Taga, home of the islands' former Chief Taga, can be found still in place near the Tinian Harbor. Rota is home to the Sagua'gaga Seabird Sanctuary where visitors can see a variety of birds that live within the sanctuary. The Rota Cave Museum is a collection of historical artifacts that has been housed within a large limestone cavern. All of the islands offer artifacts from the Japanese-American clashes that took place on the Marianas during the Second World War

Nightlife

The Mariana Islands offer something for everyone in the way of entertainment. Many of the hotels and resorts have restaurants on-site and provide entertainment nightly. Major food and entertainment chains like the Hard Rock Cafe are visible, but the Marianas also offer local flavor as well. Local clubs offer food, drink, dancing and karaoke.

The Mariana Islands are now home to a fledgling gambling industry. The Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino is the first of its kind on the islands, offering 24-hour gaming featuring a variety of gaming machines and table games. In addition, there's over 400 guest rooms available and six restaurants on-site.

Cuisine

The cuisine of the Mariana Islands reflects the influence of many cultures. Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Thai and American cuisine are prevalent in the more developed areas of the islands, and the dining experience can range from locally owned establishments to those that offer a world-class dining experience. Seafood is a staple ingredient on all the islands, but major chains cater to the tastes of the tourists in some of the larger cities Garapan on Saipan. The less populous islands of Rota and Tinian are perhaps the better choices for those who want a taste of local flavor. Restaurants there are primarily locally owned and offer the best of local fare.