The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are located in the Micronesian Region of the Pacific Ocean, north of Guam. Three of the country’s 15 islands are inhabited – Saipan, Rota and Tinian. The 12 remaining islands are known as the Northern Islands Municipality. The Northern Mariana Islands is also one of two commonwealths of the United States (Puerto Rico is the second). The culture of the CNMI is varied due to a colonial history with Spain, Germany, and Japan as well as its current relationship with the U.S. The Northern Mariana Islands is also home to two indigenous groups, the Chamorros and the Carolinians. International visitors can celebrate and experience these cultures through festivals, markets, food and historical sites found throughout the islands.
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Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The Last Command Post on Saipan is the site of a former Japanese bunker from World War II. Artifacts like tanks, anti-aircraft guns, torpedoes and other military relics can be seen at the site. The Last Command Post is also the start of a hiking trail that leads to site known as the “Suicide Cliff.”
The American Memorial Park honors 5,204 Americans and Marianas that lost their lives during World War II. Many military and historical relics are located at the park, along with outdoor activities like hiking, running/walking trails, an outdoor amphitheater, a beach and sports fields. Many events also take place at the park - check the calendar of events for upcoming activities.
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to learn more about the U.S. and its culture.
The art and culture of the islands’ two indigenous groups, the Carolinians and the Chamorro, can be found throughout the Northern Mariana Islands, including food, music, artwork and more. Over the past 500 years, island culture has also been shaped by Spanish, German, Japanese and American influences.
One place where you can see examples of local culture is the Garapan Street Market in Saipan where visitors can enjoy all types of food and live entertainment like traditional dancing, singing and music. The market opens on Thursday evenings at the Garapan Fishing Base on Beach Road. Free admission.
The NMI Museum of History & Culture is located in what was once a Japanese hospital built in 1926. Collections and exhibits focus on local history and culture, including artifacts from ancient Chamorro culture, Carolinian culture, and the Spanish, German, Japanese and post-World War II periods. The museum also hosts educational programs, special events and visiting exhibits.
The House of Taga on Tinian is home to “latte stones”, a group of prehistoric pillars named after a mythological chief named Taga. The site is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Visitors can also visit the Rota Latte Stone Quarry to see prehistoric “megaliths” that archaeologists believe to have been used as the foundation for houses. Some pillars weigh up to 35 tons and it is not known how the heavy pillars were moved to their current location.
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
American soldiers introduced baseball to the Northern Mariana Islands during World War II, and it is now the most popular sport in the country. Follow the Saipan Major League Baseball Association on the Baseball Oceania website.
The NMI Football Association focuses on football (soccer) with children, young adults, and adult leagues. Visit the website for more information on schedules and upcoming events.
Keep up to date with the latest sports new in the Northern Mariana Islands on the Saipan Tribune website.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
Shipwrecks and coral reefs means snorkeling and scuba diving are popular outdoor activities in the Northern Mariana Islands. Beach and water sports, like wind surfing, paddle boarding, parasailing and fishing, are also favorites for locals and visitors.
Visit Mount Tapochao for panoramic views of Saipan. The peak is 1554 feet (474 meters) high, making it the highest point on the island. Due to its location, the peak was a significant site in World War II. Today, it is also an important religious site for local residents.
There are many protected wildlife sanctuaries in the Northern Mariana Islands that help conserve and protect the environment of the CNMI. Check out the maps for three of these areas - the Bird Island Sanctuary, Forbidden Island Sanctuary and Managaha Marine Conservation Area.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Thanks to its multicultural inhabitants, the Northern Mariana Islands has many types of food available – from traditional Chamorro and Carolinian food to Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Korean and even Mexican food.
For fresh fruit and vegetables, visit the weekly Sabalu Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at Civic Center Park in Susupe. See photographs and information on local fruit and vegetables and start trying some for yourself!
The Annual Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival is held on Saturdays in May and features local and international cuisine. Cooking contests and live entertainment are also a part of the festival, which takes place at the American Memorial Park on Saipan.
For a unique and local perspective on American culture, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
The Flame Tree Arts Festival celebrates local culture, food and artists. The April event takes place over 3 days and is located in the American Memorial Park on Saipan. Attendees can enjoy local artwork, dancing, music and other special activities.
Celebrate fall and Japanese culture at the Autumn Festival on Saipan in October. The event features music, food, dancing, entertainment and other special activities to celebrate the relationship between Japan and the Northern Mariana Islands. Check the calendar of events for more information about the event each year.
Browse the Calendar of Events for upcoming festivals and events in the Northern Mariana Islands.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
United States Accommodation Resources
If you spend any time traveling in the United States, consider using these accommodation resources:
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options. Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in local communities within the United States.
There are no public buses or trains in the Northern Mariana Islands, so a car is the best way to get around. Some companies run shuttle buses between major shopping centers and hotels, but they do not travel to residential areas and are aimed at tourists.
Scooters and mopeds are also available to rent, but visitors must remember to be very cautious on the roads and watch for other drivers and pedestrians.
Freedom Air flies between Guam and Saipan, Rota and Tinian.
If you are planning on working in the Northern Mariana Islands, contact us for more information on transportation options.
Participants in the Northern Mariana Islands can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Northern Mariana Islands FEMA updates: @femaregion9
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
American Red Cross Saipan works with youth and adult volunteers. Contact the local chapter to see if you can help in any way on a one-time basis or more regularly.
Volunteer with the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance and work to sustain and conserve the environment and natural resources of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Look for local volunteer opportunities at upcoming festivals and events! Organizers are usually looking for help and this can be a great way to experience a festival and help out in your local community, too!