I recently returned from a trip to Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands. Locally known as Luta, the island of Rota is an almost untouched tropical paradise with white sand beaches, traditional Chamorro latte stone historical sites, and tropical greenery. Without the invasive rhino beetles destroying the palm trees or the brown tree snake wiping out much of the bird population, such as we have on Guam, Rota’s flora and fauna are thriving. The lush green jungles are like something out of a movie with tropical flowers blooming everywhere and shades of green so bright they look almost artificial. A variety of bird species can be found throughout the island, including the bright blue and white kingfisher.
Billed as “the friendliest island,” Rota lived up to its motto. Though the population is very small in comparison to Guam, everyone we met greeted us with waves and smiles. Locals offered to help us find our way around, and everyone seemed happy to chat and answer questions.
Being a small island, there are only a handful of places to stay in Rota. We stayed at the Rota Resort & Country Club, which was the largest and nicest hotel on the island, but it was located in a more remote spot outside of the main village. There are also a couple of places to stay in town, such as the Valentino Hotel and the Bayview Hotel. I was traveling with three of my girlfriends, and the Rota Resort offered a very affordable four-bedroom suite, which made our stay quite comfortable. I suggest renting a car in Rota, so that you can explore the island.
I was there with three of my friends, and we all went diving with Blue Palms Dive Center. There is one other dive operator on Rota, Rubin Dive Center. The main attraction is the Rota Hole dive site, a cave with an opening in the top that lets sunlight stream through. The reefs were similar to Guam, and we saw some of the same coral bleaching and anemone bleaching that we’re currently experiencing in Guam. We didn’t see any large sea creatures such as turtles, sharks, or rays. We also didn’t see any of the blue linckia starfish that we have in Guam. We did, however, see a large sandy bed of garden eels and a nice variety of fish, including a large humphead Napoleon wrasse.
Rota is just a 20 minute flight from Guam or Saipan, though unfortunately, I’ve been informed that United Airlines will be discontinuing service to the island. I believe Star Marianas Airlines will still be flying to Rota though. If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend the beautiful and friendly island of Rota.