Discover for yourself what it's like to live, work vacation or retire on the Pacific island of Saipan, CNMI*! *Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory.

Saipan Overview

SAIPANLIVING™ MISSION STATEMENT is a website for people who live or plan to live on the island of Saipan, CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). We provide up-to-date information, as well as products and services to facilitate living, working, raising a family, or starting and operating a business on the islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

The Truth About Saipan

Hi, My name is Walt Goodridge. I am the founder of

If you're like me, a title like "The Truth About [Anything]" is a compelling one that makes you want to read more. I believe we all, on some level, yearn to know the truth. Especially if you've heard contrasting things about life on Saipan, it would be nice, once and for all, to get to the truth of it all, wouldn't it?

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The truth is, however, there is no single truth about Saipan. In any attempt to uncover the truth, what we find are subjective perspectives, opinions and observations determined by individual agendas. Some agendas are simple: (eg. "I want to make everyone as miserable as I am"). Some agendas are complex. (eg. "We will organize a federal takeover, reshape it in our image, and make this a military R&R spot for the troops.")

Even the news media has an agenda. People joke that the media's motto is "never let the truth get in the way of a good story!" Good (read salacious) stories sell papers, magazines and advertising. Yes, the truth changes based on who is speaking and what they want out of life.

So, whether Saipan is a paradise or a den of corruption is all based on one's agenda. If you are a pessimist who wants people to wallow in your misery, then Saipan is one thing. If you're an optimist, bent on helping improve conditions it's another. If you call yourself a "realist" (generally a pessimist in disguise), then things generally tend toward the negative with the disclaimer that you're just being real.

But that's all okay, because if you know a person's agenda, then everything they say and do makes sense (unless their agenda is specifically to confuse you about what their agenda is; or unless they're just crazy). And, if you know a person's agenda, then you won't be unduly misled by their claims to truth.

Walt's Agenda

So, with that said, what's MY agenda? As the author of several passionpreneur books, and as evidenced by the title of my weekly column, my agenda is to encourage people to start their own businesses based on their passions. However, I have other agendas as well. One is to help ALL peoples optimize their assets, achieve empowerment, and maintain control over the things that matter to them. Here on Saipan—for my own selfish reasons—I'd like to maintain the cultural diversity, natural beauty, and uncomplicated lifestyle that I've come to love about living here.

But wait, there's more. There's also a part of my agenda that some may consider subversive, and that is to reveal the underlying deception of most modern ideals and belief systems, encourage a lifestyle that values simplicity and minimalism instead of consumerism, and excess, that favors the natural over the artificial, and at the same time honors everyone's right and freedom to choose whichever lifestyle works for them.

My goal is to help people arrive at a set of choices that creates a clean environment, promotes optimal health, safeguards the rights and freedoms of all, and offers an effective understanding of reality.

Every column I write, every website I launch, every project I embark upon includes a combination of some or all of those agendas. But don't be misled. Remember my agenda. It's not my nature to focus on the negative, however "real" the realists say it is. People who harp on doom won't start businesses or see the opportunity in the "doom."

Even my "facts" are selectively offered based on my agenda and what I want you to see. I can strive for a 50-50 balance, but even then, I'll always tend to give at least 51% (accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative, as Bing Crosby sang) to aid the possibility of victory and the triumph of hope.

The Truth About Saipan

So, with that said, here is my truth about Saipan:

  • Saipan is overcoming a branding challenge. In other words, what comes to mind when people think of "Saipan" isn't always what those of us who actually live and work here think are its best assets. We're emerging from the shadow of an era tainted by a controversial garment industry, and other bad (accurate or not) press.
  • Like the rest of the world, there's an economic transition taking place on Saipan. In addition, there are agendas for federalization, immigration and labor reform, which make this an island on the verge. However, even with these and other changes and challenges, there are a multitude of assets which make this a great place to visit, vacation, live, learn and love!
  • Great Weather—Saipan holds the Guiness World Record for most consistent temperature. The average difference between night and day is greater than the average difference between winter and summer. Those of us who actually live and work here on Saipan enjoy warm tropical weather year round.
  • Natural beauty--there is natural, prisitine beauty here in the form of beautiful sunrises, beaches, foliage, fruits, sunsets, rock formations, aquatic life and more!
  • Proximity to Marianas Trench (the deepest part of the world's oceans)--while no one actually goes diving that deep, our proximity to such a rich, bio-diverse, unexplored region of the world's oceans has blessed us with underwater life that makes Saipan one of the best places for….
  • World class diving-- World class shore diving, "Eagle Ray City", and the Grotto are just some of the activities and locations those who dive our waters rave about.
  • Discovery of Ecological significance—Scientists and students of ecology can learn much about life on our planet from our coral reefs (estimated value comparable to Hawaii), and the pristine, biodiversity of our waters. The US Government recently created the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (an area of over 12,000 square nautical miles) in recognition of this significance.
  • Cultural diversity—Life on Saipan has been influenced by the Spanish, Germans, Japanese, and Americans! The indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian people, immigrants, guest workers, tourists, investors and students from Asia, the Pacific, and America, make this a place of unprecedented cultural/ethnic potential.
  • Historical significance—Without needing to glorify war and violence, it stands as fact that Saipan was key battle site during World War II. It's been said the cold war started in Tinian, the island just 3 miles south of Saipan! That's where the atomic bombs dropped on Japan were launched!
  • Archeological significance—ancient artifacts of some of the planet's earliest civilizations are found here.
  • Unsolved Mysteries—The case could be made that there are stories waiting to be told about the Amelia Earhart Mystery, sunken Spanish treasure ships, World War II disappearances, ancient civilizations in which Saipan figures prominently. What might you discover on your own?

    And that's just some of the truth about Saipan. (Don't forget my agenda). Despite its challenges, many who come, stay. Many who leave, miss it terribly. And many who travel the world over, come back to enjoy a way of life they can't find anywhere else. Those of us who actually live and work on Saipan know this to be truth.

    "Come See For Yourself!"

    Ultimately, the only way to discover the truth about Saipan, is to come see for yourself! But it would be wise to heed the moral of this story:

    Once upon a time, a person moved into a new town and asked one of the town residents, "What are the people in this town like?" "What were the people like in the town you just left?" The resident asked back.

    The new person answered, "They were unfriendly and nasty."

    And the town resident said, "I think you'll find the people here are just about the same."

    Later, the same resident was approached by another new arrival, who asked the same question. Again, the resident asked, "What were the people like in the town you just left?"

    The answer was "The people were warm and friendly." And the resident answered, "I think you'll find the people here are just about the same."

    Saipan Living Invitation

    As founder of, I receive questions and inquiries every day from people who are considering moving to Saipan to live, work, start businesses, rent property, escape the rat race, or simply live a different lifestyle. If you'd like to share your truth with them, as the content on the site is being developed, please visit and/or email me to become an expert and answer their questions. I encourage you to participate, otherwise, their perception of Saipan will be "the world according to Walt," (and who wants a bunch of subversive, minimalist, Jamaican, vegan idealists running around island?)

  • Introduction to Saipan

    map of saipan
  • Saipan is an island in the Pacific Ocean. It is the capital of The US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands ("the CNMI"). The CNMI is a fourteen-island chain of islands (an archipelago) that stretches 400 miles (north to south) along the edge of the Marianas Trench. Saipan, just 5 miles wide by 12 miles long, and is the largest and most populated of these 14 islands.

  • Geographically, Saipan is located at:
    Latitude: 15° 7' 13" N
    Longitude: 145° 43' 49" E

  • By plane, Saipan is about 3 hours from Japan, 5 hours from Shanghai, China, 4 hours from Korea, 15 hours from California, 6.5 hours from Sydney, Australia, 8 hours from Tuluksak, AK

    The Host Culture

    The indigenous population on Saipan--what we refer to as the "host culture"--are the Chamorro and Carolinian people. Archeologists are discovering that some of the oldest civilizations on the planet are in this region of the world.

    According to the book, Ancient Chamorro Society by Lawrence J. Cunningham, ...the customs, beliefs, and attitudes [of Chamorro society] were as intricate and well-developed as any insular Pacific society. Of particular interest is what the author describes as Chamorros' core value: "Inafa'maolek, or interdependence within the kinship group, is the key or central value in Chamorro culture" (p.86). Cunningham state s that inafa'maolek within the family is based on mutualism rather than western individualism. To illustrate the Chamorro value system, inafa'maolek permeated all levels of society, operating on the basis of chenchule' (reciprocity), ayuda (help), emmok (revenge), mamahlao (deference), and gupot (celebration) in seeking general harmony within the family or village.

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    Saipan may be Pacific's oldest archaeological site
    Sediment cores taken from Saipan's Lake Susupe in 2002 have yielded a continual record of plant pollen and other materials for the past 8,000 years that could make the island one of the oldest archaeological site in the Pacific, according to the Historic Preservation Office. HPO director Epiphanio E. Cabrera said that scientists who have been working with the CNMI recently announced new evidence that could push the date for the earliest human settlement in Micronesia back to nearly 5,000 years ago.

    Cabrera said researchers J. Stephen Athens and Jerome Ward from the International Archaeological Research Institute Inc. noted a series of abrupt shifts in Saipan's ancient environment, some of which appeared to have been caused by humans. Charcoal particles and an abundance of grass pollen and pollens from betel nut palm and coconut trees that appeared around 6,860 BCE were analyzed. Cabrera said the discovery predates the earliest archaeological sites on Saipan by more than a thousand years. "This is some of the earliest evidence for human settlement ever found in Micronesia," he said.

    Dr. Richard Knecht, acting staff archaeologist, said the recent findings suggest that sites 5,000 years or older existed on Saipan. "The challenge now is to use what we know about ancient shorelines, which will likely reveal more early sites and possibly the first movement of early humans into the Pacific from Asia," Knecht said.

    Cabrera said that future studies and coring of lakes and sinkholes in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are required to refine the "very promising, though still preliminary" findings. Other studies of ancient sites also revealed early occupation of the CNMI.

    The HPO director said a core from Lake Hagoi on Tinian revealed coconut pollen and charcoal particles dating back to 5,444 BCE There were also similar finds at Tipalao Marsh in Guam and a sinkhole in the Kagman Peninsula on Saipan's east side also shows major changes in vegetation by about 6,520 BCE. "It probably took years for humans to alter the environment to the point where it leaves a signature in the sediment cores. Therefore, the actual dates of initial human settlement could be decades or centuries before those taken from the cores," he said.

    The earliest sites in the CNMI are Saipan's Unai Achugao site from 1,800 B.C. and Tinian's Unai Chulu site dating to 1,500 B.C. Cabrera said HPO's search to find the earliest site in the CNMI will continue as long as funding is available. "It seems safe to assume that our ancestors were here on these islands 5,000 years ago," Cabrera said.
    Source: Saipan Tribune (10 November 2005) Visit here for more on Chamorro culture

    Who are the TOUWALAWOS on Saipan?

    "Touwalawos" is just a fun word we coined here at to name a special group of people who have a distinctly different perspective and opinion of Saipan that one can only get by actually living here. It stands for "Those Of Us Who Actually Live And Work On Saipan"

    Weather on Saipan

    Saipan has great weather! Saipan holds the Guiness World Record for "most consistent temperature." The average difference between night and day is greater than the average difference between winter and summer. TOUWALAWOS experience cool nights of 83F to daytime highs of 93F, and just a bit cooler in winter months.

    The Saipan Economy

    Like much of the world, the Saipan economy is feeling the effects of number of factors. At the present moment, there are 5 factors that specifically impact what's happening here on Saipan:
    1. Federalization of Saipan's labor and immigration.
    2. The recent departure of the garment industry
    3. Drop in tourism from Japan and neighboring regions
    4. The proposed build-up in military troops stationed on Guam
    5. General economic downturn.

  • These factors and more are discussed at length in SaipanLiving's manual Doing Business on Saipan

  • Some great sources of historical economic data is available from Bill Stewart, economic advisor and author at

  • An overview of the garment industry era on Saipan is available HERE

  • Tribune Article #141- January 14, 2009: The Last Garment Factory is Closing!

    Saipan has THREE official languages: Chamorro, Carolinian and English. One of the great things about living on Saipan is your access to people and cultures from all over the world. Chamorro, Carolinian, Chuukese, Tagalog (Philippines), Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (China), Russian, Bengali (Bangladeshi), Sinhalese and Tamil (Sri Lanka), English, and others are all spoken here.


    Saipan is on the US dollar.


    Ethnicities/Cultures on Saipan

    There are Americans, Filippinos, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan Korean people on Saipan. Most non-Americans are contract workers and/or business owners on investor visas.

    Land Ownership

    At the present moment, land ownership is limited to people of NMI descent only. Everyone else may rent or lease property for up to 55 years.

    Tax Advantages of living on Saipan

    Voting (US)


    Your First Month!
    Answers for those who are transitioning or planning just about to...

  • Is your site for profit or is it a passion of yours? Until I received a response from you, I told my husband that when we got to the island, that I wanted to start a site where we could answer the exact questions that you are now answering for me. I had a lot of trouble finding answers to some of the above questions.
    ANSWER: As an "infopreneur," providing information is a passion of mine. is more information-driven to provide general information and establish a relationship.

    SaipanBookings refers tourists and residents to service providers (hotels, car rentals and activities) and earn referral commissions.

    We (I ) also offer products (eg. Doing Business on Saipan book) and services (tours and "on the ground" services) to those who wish more detailed and focussed information or services.

    There's no charge for this dialogue between us as it's valuable to me as well as a means of research. However, if, for instance, you use the car rental company we refer you to, we would earn a commission.

  • Moving there is adventurous for us, but I want a very comfortable place to live. Clean, safe, internet access capabilities, air conditioning, and furnished are necessities for us. Let's call it "medium maintenance."
    ANSWER: About a year ago, the hot topic on everyone's lips was the unreliable electricity on island. Power outages occur due to planned generator shutdowns for maintenance, as well as unplanned storms, trees falling on powerlines, and old generators in need of repair. A new contract between the government and a generator/maintenance provider was inked, and the instances of blackouts is noticeably less, but still occurs. However, most apartment complexes have backup generators for when the power goes out. If you have any sensitive equipment, you may want to invest in any high-end surge protector. I can't recommend any, but a google search (or on Amazon) may prove helpful.
  • We will be purchasing a used car shortly after we arrive. We may have to rent until we find one. Any suggestions?
    ANSWER: Many people here on Saipan park their "for sale" cars in a few well-known empty areas convenient for passing traffic to see. Once you get here, you should have no trouble finding one. As far as rentals, I'll be sending you some information for the car rental company we are currently referring customers to.
  • A furnished one bedroom would be perfect. I like hi-rises and my wife prefers near the beach. Any chance of a hi-rise on the beach? We would want to rent on a monthly basis to begin. We really don't want to go over $800. Less would be preferable.
    ANSWER: No high-rises on Saipan. Most apartment complexes are only two-stories high. Only the hotels are high-rise. Rents range from as low as $250 to $800 and above. Better views sometimes cost more within that range. Complexes catering to Americans and expats of "high maintenance" cost more within and above that range.

    Once you spend a little time on the island and get a feel for where you'd like to live, you can find gems somewhere in the middle of that range. I'm comfortable saying you could probably find something adequate for between $500 to $650. My own needs are minimal, so, my own place doesn't have a generator, and I don't use air conditioners, so my rent is less.

    Additional questions about Saipanliving!

  • As a registered voter in the U.S., if I move to Saipan, will I still be able to vote in U.S. elections? Would I remain a registered voter in the county where I moved from or somewhere else?

  • Can you tell more about the religious communities in Saipan? Catholic? Protestant? LDS? SDA? Non-Christian religions?

  • Could you address how income taxes are handled for U.S. Citizens in CNMI?

  • What about languages? I understand English is spoken by many, if not most, but what other languages predominate in Saipan?

  • What's it like for teachers in Saipan's public school system?

  • From your perspective, does Saipan offer an environment for retirement for a person who will be on a fairly restricted budget (approx $2,000 monthly). I will be independent of the economy, but nevertheless wonder if two grand will cover expenses.

  • Can you tell me if Europeans are welcome to Saipan and are there any immigration restrictions for non U.S.citizens?

  • Is it possible for a foreigner to purchase a small house?

  • Would i find it extremely difficult to get a hotel / restaurant job or any kind of job that would let me experience that culture and play a relevant part in the community?

  • ...Specifically, I'm trying to get some clues as to how big an event the elections [are].. and what, generally, elections are like on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

  • As a registered voter in the U.S., if I move to Saipan, will I still be able to vote in U.S. elections? Would I remain a registered voter in the county where I moved from or somewhere else?

  • "I am seriously interested to know from your perspective if it is very possible for me to experience working and making a living there for a year+? From reading i know that the unemployment rate is high, as well as the cost of living etc. Would i find it extremely difficult to get a hotel / restaurant job or any kind of job that would let me experience that culture and play a relevant part in the community. Are there resources you could reccommend that might clue me in as to TRULY what to expect."--

  • "I found your website while trying to research Saipan. I will be vacationing there in mid-March. I have found hints to information about the abandoned temples and shrines Japan built during WWII but I'm having trouble finding any information on where these places are or even a detailed map of the islands! I was hoping to take photography of the sites to bring back to Japan with me. Most of my coworkers here in Japan have no idea Japan occupied Saipan or that Shinto shrines exist outside of Japan. Any help you could give would be a huge assistance!"--Kyle

  • "A nice page about a beautiful island. Thank you! Can you tell me if Europeans are welcome to Saipan or are there any immigration restrictions for non U.S.citizens? Is it possible for a foreigner to purchase a small house? Somehow it just looks like the perfect place to spend my life after I'll be retired in a few years. :) Do you think this would be a good idea? Kind regards from Switzerland"--Bruno |

  • "I live on Guam, a neighbor of Saipan. I love visiting Saipan for its slow paced feel. Guam is very city-like compared to Saipan and a lot of times life without the "hussle and bussle" is just so nice to experience. there is evil everywhere, even in the U.S. Hello! But I have to say, people in Micronesia are so much friendlier than anywhere can't go hungry on the islands. p.s..since Gardenia closed down, where can I buy that delicious mango pie?" |

  • Hello there, I am presently residing in Los Angeles with my family. We are planning to move to Saipan. You may wonder why somebody who is living in California would think of moving to an island. I was laidoff last October because of the economic crisis.

    I have a relative living in Saipan, she is inviting me to visit Saipan so I would have a view of what is it like to live in an island, although I came from Philippines, at least to see for myself what Saipan has to offer.

    My question is...I am a lawful permanent resident or a green card holder, obviously I am not a U.S. citizen yet, do you think I will have a problem with regards to immigration? I understand you are not an immigration attorney, but do you have any idea as far as immigration is concerned for someone like me who would like to relocate to Saipan. the economic situation here in the mainland is very bad right now. it scares us.

    More to know

    There's always more to know. Check back for continuing updates to this site!

    Plan a Trip!

    "Saipan! Come See For Yourself!"
    Interested in living, working, exploring, diving, investing, investigating, writing, or just simply relaxing in Saipan? Let Saipan Bookings help you. Let us book your tours, accommodations and activities so you can come see for yourself!

    "...and take a tour!"
    Discover Saipan offers high-end, customized World War II Pilgrimage tours of Saipan, as well as tours by indigenous residents, plus off-the-beaten path trekking, scuba diving, and marine activities/water sports, We have unique relationships with local property owners to allow access to collections of artifacts that exist on private property, and happily provide tours for mobility challenged visitors or those who simply wish to take un-rushed tours at their own pace. and activities. Request your tour now

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    Learn more about SaipanLiving founder, author & nomadpreneur Walt Goodridge and his unique PassionProfit® books

    "hi Walt, I am very impressed. I never thought of early retiring there until seeing this website. I am interested in finding out more.-- Jim W (from the forum about

    "I have read great things about you and your assistance. I have already found your book to be of great assistance. It is awesome! Thanks so much."-- B. Manuel re: Saipan Living

    "Just finished your book and very much did enjoy it I am sure I will read again and again it has a lot of very good information and answered most of my questions."--Keith P. keep me in the loop please.

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