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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSentosa is Singapore’s most popular island resort, one which manages to attract over 20 million visitors every year. The favoured quickie getaway for local Singaporeans, Sentosa is a compact hub of fun attractions; home to the city’s best theme parks, numerous beaches, two casinos, golf course and a plethora of deluxe hotels and resorts, as well as a near infinite array of dining and drinking options.
Sentosa has been named the ‘the most expensive southeast Asian island destination’ for two years running. Although the tag is not undeserved, as Sentosa’s attractions are primarily aimed at mid to high-range tourists, there are still some affordable accommodation and dining options which would suit the frugal traveller. Having said this, of course, there is no need to actually base yourself in Sentosa to explore it at length. Heading here for a full day of fun and relaxation from Singapore’s more affordable city centre is infinitely easy and very enjoyable on a scenic cable-car ride. Unless you splurge on theme parks and fancy meals (which you should do!) you could have a very reasonably priced day out.
Brief HistorySentosa has always been an important part of Singapore, even in the mid 1800's when its geographical position meant it became the optimal lookout point from where to protect the city. Four forts were built here initially, and by the time the Second World War erupted the island was all but one, colossal, fortified army base.
Sentosa was used by the Brits as an army base during the war, yet the Allies were not able to fend off a phenomenal Japanese offensive. During occupation, Sentosa became a prison camp island where many British and Australian soldiers were executed. Once the Japs were defeated and the island returned to British rule, it was, once again, used as an army base, right up until Sentosa was finally handed back to the local government on 1967.
It was during the 1970's that the idea of rebranding Sentosa as a tourist destination was initially conceived. Over the past four decades, the government has poured over 340billion USD into the comprehensive rebuilding and redeveloping of the island as a superb tourist destination. In many respects, when it comes to attractions, Sentosa is indeed spectacular. And with that kind of jaw-dropping investment, a slightly overpriced meal can certainly be excused.
Top HighlightsReaching Sentosa on the cable car from Singapore’s main island is an attraction all on its own; yet once here, you’ll find an incredible amount of fun stuff to see and do.
Resorts WorldResorts World Sentosa is Singapore’s integrated entertainment resort where you’ll find an incredible amount of attractions. Set over 120 acres and employing over 10,000 people, Resorts World is often seen as a day-trip destination of its own accord. The most popular attraction is Universal Studios Singapore (the first of its kind to open in Southeast Asia) which is, in all aspects except size, just as brilliant as the original. There are loads of thrilling rides, plenty for adults, children and toddlers to enjoy as well, yet frantically busy. Book your ticket online to avoid extensive queues and do bring comfy shoes for a full day of action packed fun.
Lovers of the underwater world will have a field day at Marine Life Park home to the world’s largest oceanarium. In this resort you’ll find the S.E.A. Aquarium, which houses over 800 different species of sea life from all corners of the globe, and Adventure Cover Waterpark, a great little theme park which boasts a few water rides ideal for mid-aged teenagers. Not nearly as exciting as Universal Studios, but fun for a few hours nonetheless.
There are six hotels in Resort World, each designed to a specific theme, and includes exclusive suites at the Equarius Hotel which are built adjacent to the aquarium, and offer a personalised marine life experience. You’ll also find two incredible health and beauty spas which offer all sorts of relaxing services like facials, massages and boy treatments. All of these are very much on the higher-end of the affordability scale.
Beneath Crockworlds Towers is where you’ll find the Resorts World Casino, which is free for foreigners to visit as long as they bring their passports along as ID. Due to the city’s strict gambling laws, locals must pay a $ 75 USD daily entry fee to visit here.
At Resorts World, you’ll also find a luxury shopping mall aimed at affluent fashionistas and at least six casual and just as many fine dining options. To cap off a comprehensive visit, don’t miss the Maritime Experiential Museum, a fantastic museum which retraces Singapore’s maritime history and the only one of its kind in the city. Entry is included in the Aquarium ticket so it’s very much worth your while.
MegaZip AdventureIf Universal Studios Singapore is not really your thing, but you still wish to get your pulse racing, then head to MegaZip Adventure Park, where you can zip your way above the tree canopy and fly down to the beach at breakneck speed. A wonderful park with rides for the whole family but, perhaps, not so much if you have an extreme fear of heights!
Sentosa Nature DiscoveryThis is Sentosa’s latest attraction to open to the public and it’s already a huge hit with visitors, even though it seems that many stumble upon it accidentally. This nature discovery walk is part jungle trek and part nature exhibit, with a plethora of informative boards along an extensive path which leads you through the jungle. Learn all about the flora and fauna of the area and enjoy a thoroughly relaxing stroll in peaceful surroundings. This free attraction starts at the Imbiah Lookout and includes several, well-marked paths.
Tiger Sky TowerNear the cable-car station is where you’ll find Singapore’s highest observation tower, which stands at over 130m above sea level. The observation deck, which is enclosed and ascends up the tower, grants breathtaking 360 degree views of the city, coastline and outlying islands. At just S$15 ($11) entrance fee per person, it’s an absolute golden attraction and the experience worth every cent.
Sentosa Golf ClubSingapore’s most exclusive golf club grants amazing views of the bay and city skyline and is a fantastic place to visit, even if you couldn’t hit a golf ball to save your life! Enjoy a sumptuous meal with a view in the outdoor terrace and relish in a slow stroll through the pristinely kept gardens. The Par 72 course is in impeccable condition and a day’s game, if you’re willing, will set you back about S$305 ($226) during the week and S$425 ($315) on week-ends.
Fort SilosoThis is Sentosa’s only fort still left standing and, although it’s quite small in size, it’s still an interesting and informative place to visit, especially for history buffs. Info boards detail the story of the fort and city through the years (and many wars) and there’s a multitude of both Allied and Japanese relics on show. You’ll see how the soldiers lived during occupation and have plenty of tunnels to explore and cannons to admire. Thanks to its elevated position, Fort Siloso is also a wonderful viewpoint but it’s the historical importance and content which makes it a very important site to visit.
BeachesWhen local Singaporeans head to Sentosa for the day, they tend to skip the theme parks and expensive attractions. What they do, instead, is enjoy day at the beach. Join them and you too could enjoy one of the best free activities in all of Singapore.
Sentosa is home to three swimming beaches: Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong. Siloso is the trendy corner of the island, where hip young things come to flirt and work on their tans. Palawan is a fave of families and Tanjong is the quietest one of the lot. All three boast change room facilities, long stretches of pristine sand, food and drink kiosks and plenty of shade under palm trees. If you’re quite adamant about parting with some cash, then take advantage of the Tajong Beach Club or Siloso Beach Resort, where you can utilise all the facilities for the day.
Sentosa Cable CarThe opening of the Sentosa Boardwalk linking the island to Singapore’s centre, has done away with the need to catch the cable car. Although this spells great news for those on a budget (access across the boardwalk is free for all of 2015) it would be a travesty to miss the cable car ride. Considering the boardwalk itself offers beautiful views of the harbour, a great option would be to walk one way and catch the cable car to get back.
The 20-minute ride gifts all-encompassing views of bays on all sides, the city’s skyline and outlying islands. The pricing system has been recently changed, and now includes ‘packages’ for cable car ride and entry into 2, 3 or 5 Sentosa Island attractions (out of 14). Moreover, they have done away with one-way tickets but have decreased the price for a return fare. S$29 ($21) per person ( S$18 ($13) for kids) is the cheapest ticket one can buy.
How to get around SentosaSentosa Island boasts a comprehensive public transport system which is free to use and includes beach trams and buses.
Sentosa Beach TramTrams run every 10 minutes, staring from Siloso Point to Tanjong Beach (past Palawan) and the southern most point on the isle.
BusesThere are three separate bus routes which cover all the main spot on the island, including theme parks and resorts. You’ll find a downloadable bus guide on Sentosa island’s website.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Mar 23, 2015