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The Island of Saipan

Saipan is described by tourism officials as a tropical island offering "bright turquoise skies, crystal clear waters, pristine beaches, flaming sunsets and warm tropical breezes, along with the affectionate smiles and hospitality of island people." With some 60,000 residents, Saipan has the distinction of being the fastest growing island in Micronesia.

The island's 46.5 square miles make Saipan about the same size as San Francisco. Altogether, Saipan is 12.5 miles long and up to 5.5 miles wide, while 54 miles of coastline feature 14 miles of beaches. Of the eight communities on the island, Garapan and Chalan Kanoa are the principal urbanized areas. All the modern conveniences are available that students expect, including Pizza Hut!

Exploring Saipan will take visitors from smooth sand beaches to sea cliffs rising up to 800 feet, and from the hike atop 1554-foot-high Mount Topachau to a descent into Kalabera Cave. As may be imagined, water sports such as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving are favored local pastimes. The island's World War II heritage is in evidence at the American War Memorial, the wartime Japanese command post with its cannon and other relics, Suicide Cliff where hundreds of Japanese plunged to their deaths to avoid surrender, and an array of sunken warships, submarines, tanks, and airplanes.

The Marianas enjoy a tropical oceanic climate and uniform temperatures the year round. The annual mean temperature is 83 degrees Fahrenheit, with a seasonal variation in mean monthly temperature of less than 3.5 degrees. Humidity averages 79 and 86 percent but fresh breezes provide a measure of comfortable relief. Mean annual rainfall is approximately 84 inches. The high cliffs of the east side of the island bear the brunt of storms, while the remaining three sides are fringed by coral reefs that create calm and sparkling lagoons.

Saipan and the Northern Marianas Islands are a United States commonwealth and therefore residents are U.S. citizens and accept U.S. currency. English is commonly spoken on Saipan, though about 85 percent of islanders speak another language at home. Native to Saipan are the Chamorros and Carolinians, while over the past decade the island has become home to communities of Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and other nationalities ranging from Bangladeshis to Russians.