Diving in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, USA
Lots of great stuff to see when diving in Saipan. Photo: Henry Manipon

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

Today we are diving in Saipan, one of the Mariana Islands and part of the Northern Mariana Islands commonwealth of the United States, in the western Pacific Ocean. Saipan is the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands.

WHY ARE WE DIVING IN SAIPAN?

The sea of Saipan is famous for its high visibility usually exceeding 20m/65ft, it can even reach 50m/164ft. Divers can enjoy a tropical climate all year with a warm water temperature at 27°C/80°F to 29°C/84°F depending on the season.

Most dive sites are accessible within minutes away from central and provide great entertainment for beginner to expert.

Saipan is also home to Spotted eagle rays, and on a good day there can be as many as over 40 swimming around. White/Black tip sharks, turtles and barracudas are always around.

There are many wreck dive sites from WWII, ships, air planes and tanks are lying at dive site. Diving in Saipan offers a cool range of diving.

School of spotted eagle rays in Saipan
A school of spotted eagle rays. Photo: Henry Manipon

HOW DO WE GET THERE?

You can fly into Guam then take a 1 hour flight to get to Saipan.

Once you are on Saipan island, it takes only 10 to 15 minutes by car from your hotel to the port when you go boat diving or shore diving.

There are usually direct flights from Japan, Korea, Hong-Kong, Taiwan and China. Those have been suspended due to COVID pandemic situation.

WHICH DIVE SITES ARE MUST-SEE?

Saipan has a variety of dive sites and each site has its own charm.

Lau Lau Beach

(Max. 18m/59ft) Lau Lau is the most interesting beach entry site where you can see friendly green sea turtles almost always.

Grotto

(Max. inside cave 22m/72ft, outside the cave is deeper than recreational depth limit) is a breathtaking cave dive. Glowing blue light from three different holes provides an incredible underwater sight.

Obyan

(Max. 18m/59ft) beautiful white sandy diving with a lot of garden eels.

Shipwreck/Emily

(Max. 12m/39ft) Ship and airplane wreck diving sites from WWII.

Dimple

(Max. 35m/114ft) Popular for beautiful corals. You’ll see hundreds of pyramid butterflyfish and many more kinds of fish.

Ice Cream

(Max. 18m/59ft) Spotted eagle rays cleaning station.

Oleai

(Max. 15m/49ft) Known as “Coral Garden” with different types of coral.

Naftan

(max 35m/114ft) One of the best visibility points in Saipan. Beautiful corals and drop off diving.

Spotlight

(max. 25m/82ft) Another cave diving. Very popular dive site because of the sunlight shining through a hole on top of the cavern.

Fleming

(max. Over recreational fun dive limit) Wall diving with excellent visibility in Tinian. You can dive to the max depth limit for fun diving. The drop off is going down more than 80m/262ft.

Tinian Grotto

(max. ) Small cave where you can see small creatures, crabs, shrimps and shells and so on.

Exploring WWII wrecks around Saipan.
Exploring WWII wrecks around Saipan. Photo: Henry Manipon

TELL ME MORE

Most dive sites in Saipan are boat diving sites, however there are some pretty beach or shore diving sites that you can reach within 20 minutes by a car from your hotel.

Further boat diving sites are Tinian points, where you will ride on the boat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the boat size. Other boat dive sites are accessible and shorter than 45 minutes especially in reef points. Shipwreck/Emily is only 10 minutes boat ride.

You can choose a large boat with a toilet or small boat for a short ride.

DO I NEED ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT?

The water is very warm around Saipan at 27°C/80°F to 29°C/84°F, you can dive with only a rash guard or 3mm wetsuit.

You can bring your own gear, or if not your dive shop will provide a rental gear set with 2 or 3mm wetsuit.

Reel hooks and groves are not necessarily. It’ll help you to see more sea creatures if you bring your flashlight.

Cool dive sites around Saipan.
Lots of great dive sites to explore around Saipan. Photo: Henry Manipon

WHAT LEVEL CERTIFICATION SHOULD I BE?

Saipan has various diving sites for beginners to experts. If you are a first time diver we would go to Lau Lau Beach site for your introduction try-dive.

You can enjoy diving with your OW license at Lau Lau Beach, Shipwreck, Emily, Oleai and Ice Cream.

Read More: Differences between Scuba Diver vs Open Water Certification

Other sites, such as Grotto, Obyan, Dimple, Spotlight, Naftan, Fleming and Tinian Grotto require an Advanced OW license due to the deeper depths.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?

The water temperature is at 27°C/80°F to 29°C/84°F around Saipan. It can drop to 26°C/78°F in February, and even reach 31°C/87°F in May.

The visibility is great, 15m/45ft to 20m/60ft in “bad” conditions and the viz can reach 30m/90ft to 40m/120ft.

The best diving season is April to September with calm sea conditions and strong sunshine which makes visibility better. If you dive in November to February, you will have a better chance to see a school of Spotted eagle Rays who love strong currents. Please be advised by your instructor if you dive in strong currents. Drift diving is not common for diving around Saipan.

Scuba diving with turtles around Saipan.
There are great opportunities to dive with turtles here. Photo: Henry Manipon

HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?

The cost of 1 fun dive with a beach entry is around 40 USD. There will be a boat charge on top if you go boat diving. Boat fee range is 35 – 80 USD depending on the dive points and the size of the boat.

Most dive shops offer a package price, where you’ll get more discount if you dive more at the same shop.
If you are without your own gear, your dive shop will provide you a rental gear, full sets rental gear costs about 30 USD per day.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS AVAILABLE?

Saipan has a wide range of accommodation from 5 star luxury hotel to small comfort guest house. They have air-conditioning, hot showers and small fridge etc in the room. Prices range from 50 – 200 USD per night.

For long-term stay the basic price for a studio type 1 bedroom apartment is around 350 USD and a 2 bedroom apartment is around 600 USD excluding utilities. There are some cheaper rooms if you are away from the main city.

There are no public buses or trains in Saipan, but you can get a taxi at a cheap price. It will be convenient if you own your car.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

What you will feel at scuba diving in Saipan is an excellent relaxation in the clear water with world-class visibility.
Each dive site has a variety of highlights, from seeing friendly sea turtles, exploring magnificent underwater caves, feeling the history at wreck diving, or swimming through a fantastic drop off.

There is so much and more for all skills of divers, from technical to even those who want to try diving for the first time without getting a licence!

Read More: Scuba Diving Tips for Beginners

Another charming point is the tropical conditions and warm water. You can dive with only light equipment and gear.

Amazing conditions and tropical fish diving in Saipan
Amazing conditions and tropical fish. Photo: Henry Manipon

WHAT DO WE DO ON SURFACE INTERVALS?

Saipan is a small island with many excellent beaches. If you’re not diving, rent a car and go find your favorite one! It takes only 2 hours to go around the island.

There are many sightseeing spots and historic spots to visit as well. “Grotto” is one of the best sightseeing points in Saipan for snorkelers and divers.

If you have half day free time, try “Managaha Island”. The boat will take you for only a 10 minutes ride from Saipan and you’ll see a pretty white sandy island with palm trees where you can snorkel in the clear water.

Hiking trails are also enjoyable, “Bird Island” and “Forbidden Island” are representable. Please don’t ask a local guide for these hikes as some parts of the hike are very steep.

The restaurants on the west coast offer a breathtaking sunset view with island seafood and cold beers. There are a lot of bars that offer Happy Hours where you can enjoy drinks with discounted prices.

If you are in Saipan on a Saturday then check out the “Saturday Market” with lots of local products, BBQs, seafoods and souvenirs.

There is a lot of fun underwater and on-land in Saipan. You’ll never get bored during your stay!

Henry is a PADI Instructor at Let’s go Diving - Saipan. He's been diving in Saipan since 1996. He enjoys diving Grotto, Fleming and Tinian Grotto. HIs favorite fish are purple fire gobies and spotted eagle rays. He plays basketball, enjoys swimming with his doggies and cooking Filipino. "Let’s explore underwater beauty with me!"