Grotto is reopened

Share
Swimmers are seen enjoying the still waters of the newly rehabilitated Grotto.

Swimmers are seen enjoying the still waters of the newly rehabilitated Grotto. Photo taken by licensed commercial drone pilot BJ Eddy.

After over a year of being closed for renovations, the newly improved Grotto and Grotto lookout are now officially reopened.
The Marianas Visitors Authority, in coordination with the CNMI administration and various sponsors, unveiled the newly rehabilitated Grotto site yesterday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Today we celebrated the revitalization and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Grotto,” said MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo. “It’s been closed for so many [months] and, finally, visitors and locals are now able to enjoy the lookout.”

The Grotto has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic under an executive order of the governor. MVA and many other agencies supporters used that time to repair and improve the site, which had deteriorated much due to the uncontrolled influx of visitors.

Iakopo said the site, which took over six months to rehabilitate, is now safer and more accessible to everyone. “This is a unique natural gem of the Marianas. The Grotto today is more beautiful and more safely accessible than ever.”

Renovations to the site include a new Grotto sign, an improved wheelchair access, complete makeover of the Grotto lookout, and rehabilitation of the railings and stairs leading down to the Grotto cave, improvements on the pavilions and restrooms, and more.

“We’ll start with the lookout. So what we [started] with was the railings. Those are all improved. You can see the Latte stones incorporated into the railings and we even have the Saipan letters. Next, we improved the wheelchair access. We actually had several of our organizations break down the former because the way the access was going, and then we did some leveling. Then we move down to the entrance of the Grotto. If you go down the stairs, the railings and the stairs have been rehabilitated. Then we also did repairs and painting fixtures on the pavilions as well as renovating the restrooms. We also incorporated a new Grotto sign. …We also repaired the Captain Vicente Manglona Concepcion monument as this the Grotto was dedicated to him,” she said.

Photo shows the steep staircase going down. Photo taken by licensed commercial drone pilot BJ Eddy.

Grotto has been a popular spot through the years for both locals and visitors alike. “Many of us have swam here, walked down the over 100 steps, and survived the walk back up. A few of us have even gone even further by diving these beautiful waters, and then walking back up with tanks on our back,” said Iakopo.

Grotto has won numerous international accolades and was once featured in Skin Diver magazine as the No. 1 cavern dive in the world. Grotto is one of the most popular sites in the Marianas, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Initially, the rehabilitation program started off with MVA and the Office of the Governor and Lt. Governor, Iakopo said. Down the road, MVA partnered with the Grants Management Office and the Department of Correction’s Community Outreach program, and more.

“So, when the governor and lieutenant governor, created the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, through their PPP program, we were able to expand the partnership. That’s why we now have five or six organizations who have adopted the Grotto,” she said.

The list of organizations who have “adopted” or essentially sponsored the rehabilitation of Grotto are the Office of the Governor and Office of the Lt. Governor, Governors Council of Economic Advisers, Grants Management Office, Department of Corrections and its Community Outreach Program, Dept. of Public Lands, Office of Zoning, Department of Lands and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Bureau of Environmental Coastal Quality Coastal Resources Management, Tasi & the Ali’is, Loco & Taco Restaurant, Dive Wish, International Roller Skates Saipan, Saipan Adventure, and Mariana Light House.

All the organizations will take part in the maintenance of the facility in conjunction with MVA, Iakopo said.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.