Kalabera Cave

Useful Information

Location: northeastern Saipan island.
Open: closed for a year.
Fee: closed for a year.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: bring torch
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Kalabera Cave is a famous tourist destination on Saipan island. Is is reached easily from the Bird Island lookout by following the dirt road.

Long before the Europeans arrived, since around 2000 BC, the island was inhabited by indegneous people called Chamorro or Chamoru. It was first discovered by sea-faring people who migrated from southeastern Indonesia. However, little is known about these times, there are mostly some legends and Jesuit missionary accounts. But there are also a few archaeological evidences, among them faint drawings in this cave. They are located on the left side just inside the cave portal.

The islands were discovered by the Spanish in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan reached them during his circumnavigation of the globe. It took 50 years until they claimed it, and 100 years until the colonization started with the arrival of the first missionaries. The cave was used as a prison during the Spanish period, at least according to legend. However, the cave is not really suitable for this, and so this story is not very plausible.

But the story from World War II is plausible: when the rumour spread that the American forces had landed on the island, many locals hid in this cave. At this time the islands were owned by the Japanese, and after the U.S. Marines landed on 15-JUN-1944 and there were three weeks fighting called the Battle of Saipan. There is also a story that Japanese soldiers used the cave as a field hospital during the Battle of Saipan. There is a story, that during the last days of the battle the Japanese soldiers, nurses, doctors, and patients crowded around a single grenade. They planned to commit suicide as a last option to avoid being taken prisoners.

The cave has a entrance portal of decent size, the ceiling is mostly high. Be carefull when entering the cave, as the floor is sloping downwards and slippery, followed by a deep hole. There is a story about the skeleton of a Japanese soldier in uniform, which was found at the bottom of that hole. Probably he slipped and fell to death by accident, so we recommend to be careful.

In July 2008 the Marianas Visitors Authority's Destination Enhancement Committee and the CNMI Department of Public Works published their plans for the development and the closure of the site. The cave is now closed to the public for about one year. During this time it will be developed as a show cave with the construction of an elevated path and electric lighting. The project will cost some USD 1.5 Million and is funded by the Office of Insular Affair of the U.S. Department of Interior.