7 Money-Saving Tips for Visitors to the Northern Mariana Islands
Officially known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI, the Northern Marianas are fast becoming a hot destination for tourists all across the world. It has even earned the nickname as “American’s best-kept secret” because of its attractions and isolated location from other parts of the United States. Indeed, the Pacific island chain’s raw beauty, precipitous cliffs, and refreshing trade winds are just some of the reasons why travelers keep coming back for more.
As affordable as the place is compared to other tourist destinations in the country, many of the best-known activities such as scuba diving and paragliding can still cost a pretty penny. To help budget travelers reduce costs, we share six must-know tips to enjoy the Northern Mariana Islands on a budget.
1. Book Accommodations in Advance
There are plenty of affordable hotels in CNMI. But the best way to pay cheap is to book in advance and secure a room for yourself and your traveling companion or party.
Thinking of traveling in a big group or with the family? You’ll need to plan ahead. The further out you schedule, the better the chances that you’ll get the accommodation you want.
Keep an eye out for special offers and discounts; they’ll trim down your expenses more, leaving you with the option to use those savings on paid activities such as windsurfing in Saipan, golfing in LaoLao Bay Golf & Resort, or cliff fishing in Tinian.
2. Time Your Visit to See the Festivals
From April to June, tourists from all over the world flock to the Northern Mariana Islands to witness their annual festivals. It’s a fun and cheap way to soak up some culture, enjoy the local street foods, and get boozy.
Most of these events take place in Saipan, but the smaller villages will also celebrate with lively fiestas to honor their patron saints.
Must-see festivals include:
- Mahi Fishing Derby
- Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival
- Sweet Potato Festival
- Marianas Cup Beach Volleyball Festival
- Tinian Hot Pepper Festival
- Marianas Winds Kite Festival and Cultural Food Fair
- Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival and Beer Garden
- Christmas in the Marianas
3. Snorkle Instead of Dive
The Northern Marianas has some of the most spectacular dive sites where you can visit numerous shipwrecks from WWII and go through underwater cavers where sea turtles and triggerfish swim.
If you’re on a budget, however, the islands’ snorkeling tours offer an equally wonderful experience. The coral reefs off Lau Lau Beach are excellent for beginning divers, while the waters off Naftan Point’s Obyan Beach is a popular site for underwater photography.
4. Be Your Own Guide
Paying for a guided tour has its perks — there’s less to think about, entrance fees are usually covered, and you get a free meal or two.
That’s not to say that exploring the islands on your own won’t be fun. You can create a personalized itinerary of places to visit and inexpensive things to do.
Saipan has numerous scenic attractions you can enjoy without paying for a tour guide:
- American Memorial Park
- Last Japanese Command Post
- Capitol Hill
- Mount Tapochau
- Forbidden Island
- Managaha Island
- Bird Island
5. Learn to Eat Cheap
The Garapan street market is a popular place to find budget food from as cheap as $6 USD per plate, with up to five food selections on one plate. The reasonable price lets you try different types without ruining your budget.
Admission to the Garapan street market is also free, there’s live music and dancers in the evening, and you can enjoy everything from Chinese dishes, Thai ice cream, and fusions of different Asian cuisines.
6. Rent a bike
The most popular mode of transportation for tourists visiting the CNMI is by rented car or van. While there are indeed attractions that are more practical to hit with a vehicle, some locations are also well-suited for visiting with a bike.
Banzai Cliff, Suicide Cliff, and Bird Island are just some of the places you can see on a comfortable bike ride from the mountains to the beach.
7. Talk to the Locals
This is advice that’s worth following for every new destination. After all, locals love to share, whether it’s their food, culture, or valuable information that can help tourists have a better experience. One good ice-breaker is to ask for directions or simple advice, such as, “where’s a good and affordable place to eat?” They may even hint you on special dishes to try!
Stretch Your Dollar and Have a Blast on Your Trip to the Northern Marianas
The islands that make up the CNMI are undoubtedly filled with tropical charm that’s hard to find in other parts of America. Fortunately, it’s also easy to stick to a budget while enjoying everything these beautiful islands have to offer.