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Overview

Tropical beauty and inaesthetic development collide in the Northern Mariana Islands, best known for its main island, golf course-laden Saipan. The country runs on tourism and most visitors come from Asia to enjoy the U.S. Commonwealth's near-perfect, 80-degrees-Fahrenheit, year-round climate. While Saipan is bustling, Tinian, which once housed the U.S. military base for the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan in WWII, has a slower pace as well as plenty of historical war sights. But the most pristine main isle in the group is Rota, where you'll even have the beautiful beach in the main town of Songsong to yourself. Everywhere you go ...

Tropical beauty and inaesthetic development collide in the Northern Mariana Islands, best known for its main island, golf course-laden Saipan. The country runs on tourism and most visitors come from Asia to enjoy the U.S. Commonwealth's near-perfect, 80-degrees-Fahrenheit, year-round climate. While Saipan is bustling, Tinian, which once housed the U.S. military base for the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan in WWII, has a slower pace as well as plenty of historical war sights. But the most pristine main isle in the group is Rota, where you'll even have the beautiful beach in the main town of Songsong to yourself. Everywhere you go you'll find stretches of sandy beach and world-class scuba diving.

With the worldwide economic decline a few years ago, tourism has suffered, and the lifting of U.S. trade restrictions with China in 2005 has all but killed the once flourishing (although oft-troubled by humanitarian issues) garment industry. But the islands putter on, offering fun in the sun at bargain prices to those who make it this far into the Pacific.

Celeste Brash
About the Expert

Celeste Brash has contributed to more than 30 Lonely Planet guidebooks mostly on the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Her travel writing has appeared in publications from Travelers' Tales anthologies to Islands magazine and Gadling.com.

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Celeste Brash for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: One of the five inhabited U.S. island territories (the other four being Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa). It consists of 15 islands in the western Pacific Ocean about three-quarters of the way between HI and the Philippines.
  • Language: English, Chamorro, Carolinian
  • Currency: U.S. Dollar
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Current Time:

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    December to May (the dry season)