The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is one of two insular areas that are Commonwealths of the United States; the other is Puerto Rico.It consists of fifteen islands in the western Pacific Ocean located about three-quarters of the way between Hawaii and the Philippines. The United States Census Bureau reports the total land area of all islands as 183.5 square miles (475.26 km2). As of the 2010 census, the Commonwealth has a population of 53,883, of which over 90% live on the island of Saipan. Of the fourteen other islands, only two – Tinian and Rota – are permanently inhabited.
The first people of the Northern Mariana Islands navigated to the islands at some period between 4000 BC to 2000 BC from Southeast Asia. They became known as the Chamorros, and spoke an Austronesian language called Chamorro. The ancient Chamorro left a number of megalithic ruins, including Latte stone. The Refaluwasch, or Carolinian, people came to the Marianas in the 1800s from the Caroline Islands.
The Northern Mariana Islands, together with Guam to the south, compose the Mariana Islands archipelago. The southern islands are limestone, with level terraces and fringing coral reefs. The northern islands are volcanic, with active volcanoes on several islands, including Anatahan, Pagan and Agrihan. The volcano on Agrihan has the highest elevation at 3,166 feet (965 m).
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands benefits from substantial subsidies and development assistance from the federal government of the United States. The economy also relies heavily on tourism, especially from Japan, and the rapidly dwindling garment manufacturing sector. The tourism industry has also been dwindling since late 2005. As of late 2006, tourist arrivals fell 15.23% (73,000 potential visitors) from the eleven months prior.
Northern Mariana Islands Top Tourist Attractions