Singapore/Sentosa and Harbourfront

Sentosa is an island just off the southern coast of Singapore. This district also includes Harbourfront and the Southern Islands.

Understand

Formerly known by the rather unattractive name of Pulau Blakang Mati ("The Island After Death" in Malay) and the centrepiece of Britain's spectacularly unsuccessful "Fortress Singapore" strategy in World War II, Sentosa has been rebranded and remade into one big tourist attraction, popular among Singaporeans as a quick island getaway. The new jewel in the crown is Resorts World Sentosa, an enormous complex comprising of Universal Studios theme park, S.E.A. Aquarium, Singapore's first casino, shopping malls and hotels.

The small southern islets of Kusu Island, St. John's Island, the Sisters Islands, and Pulau Hantu are a little to the southeast of Sentosa. Various plans to develop them have not come to much and they remain off the beaten track, but by no means undiscovered. The first two can be reached by public ferry, and the rest by chartered boat.

Get in

Basic admission to the island will set you back at least $1 per person which is included in the transportation fares from the mainland to Sentosa. Hotel guests can get an admission waiver. There is an ever-changing palette of combination tickets that may work out marginally cheaper if you plan to visit multiple attractions. The island itself is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although many of the attractions are not.

The best way in is to take the North-East Line or Circle Line of the MRT to HarbourFront and then make your way to Level 3 of Vivocity, where you'll find the Sentosa Express monorail to the island. The train operates every 5-8 minutes from 07:00-23:45 daily, and a flat fare of $4.00 applies (island admission included, EZ-Link accepted).

The cheapest way though, is to walk across the bridge via the Sentosa Broadwalk ($1, EZ-Link accepted, however currently free until end of 2016), and it isn't even much of a walk since there are travellators with plenty of shade. The next cheapest is to take a SMRT bus, RWS 8, from VivoCity/HarbourFront MRT for $2 and there are some shuttle buses from hotels in the Orchard and Marina Bay districts.

By taxi or private car, you'll need to pay $2 to $7 per vehicle to enter depending on the time of entry, and a $3 taxi surcharge also applies on the way out. Alternatively, the Cable Car between Sentosa, HarbourFront and Mt. Faber is a little more scenic and the return ticket costs $26/15.

Sentosa's ferry terminal has been demolished to make way for the casino, but there are still limited ferry services from downtown Singapore's Marina South Pier to Kusu and St John's Island.

Get around

All transportation around Sentosa (except taxis) is free.

Three coloured shuttle bus services Yellow Line, Red Line and Green Line connect Beach Station to various points on the island. Buses run every 10-35 minutes from 07:00-22:30 every day and till 12 mid-night on Saturdays.

Beach trams supplemented by minivans, shuttle people along the beaches every 10 minutes. One service connects Beach Station to Siloso Beach, another connects Beach Station to Palawan and Tanjong Beaches.

The Sentosa Express has three different stops (Waterfront, Imbiah, and Beach), providing services between Resorts World Sentosa, the Imbiah attractions and the beaches.

See and Do

Long a bit of a joke, Singaporean wags used to quip that "Sentosa" stood for "So Expensive and Nothing to See Actually". Well, it's still expensive, but there are now more than enough attractions to spend a day or two taking it all in, especially in the family-oriented Resorts World Sentosa. In fact the crowd during the weekends and school holidays can be quite daunting, and it's never easy waiting in long sweaty queues under the mid-day sun but Universal Studios Singapore is a standout experience for theme park lovers and for those who haven't been to Orlando. For all attractions below, a "child" is defined as being between three and twelve.

Resorts World Sentosa

Resorts World Sentosa can be reached via the Waterfront station of the monorail or via the dedicated RWS buses from Harbourfront and other points in Singapore (see Get in). If you plan on visiting more than one park, check out the Multi-Park Passes. The most comprehensive, which includes Universal Studios Singapore, S.E.A. Aquarium, Maritime Experiential Museum and Adventure Cove Waterpark, costs $188/136 for a two day visit and is curiously more expensive than the individual tickets combined, but allows for switching between attractions as you like.

Far Far Away Castle, Universal Studios

At the beach

Palawan Beach, in the background the southernmost point in continental Asia

Among Singaporeans, a popular reason to go to Sentosa is to hit the beaches: Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong from west to east respectively. All three are artificial, but does it really matter? Unfortunately the water is rather murky due to the never-ending parade of ships across the Straits. Siloso has a nice beach promenade full of clubs and restaurants, some rather noisy, while Palawan claims to be the southernmost point of continental Asia (if you count the bridge connecting Sentosa, and ignore any competing Malaysian claims, as well as the parts of Sentosa that are further south). Tanjong, the quietest of the three, is the place for beach volleyball.

The stage for Wings of Time

For some action

Henderson Waves, crossing the Southern Ridges

Elsewhere in Sentosa

Southern Islands

Da Bogong Temple on Kusu Island

There are a few sights of minor interest on Kusu Island. The name means "Turtle Island" and there are indeed lots of the reptiles scampering about, but don't expect an unspoiled tropical paradise: the island was thoroughly reworked with land reclamation in 1975 and looks exactly like the rest of Sentosa.

Kusu and St. John also offer some beaches, which are quieter but otherwise not much different from those on Sentosa itself. St. John is also a popular spot for fishing.

Buy

Every corner of Sentosa is inundated with gift shops filled with all the plush Merlion toys you will ever need (and then some).

Eat

As you might expect from a giant amusement park, food on Sentosa is (by Singaporean standards) rather pricey and mediocre. Things have, however, gotten slightly better in recent years with local chains allowed to open up outlets. Since the opening of the casinos, good (though still pricey) fine dining options are available at Resorts World Sentosa. For cheaper food options, grab a bite at either VivoCity or HarbourFront Centre.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

The beaches can offer some pretty wild parties on Friday and Saturday nights, especially if one of the on-again, off-again foam parties pops up. The New Year's Eve party in particular is legendary, as is ZoukOut, a massive yearly outdoor party organized by Zouk, featuring a roster of international and local DJs. Beaches, beer, bikinis, and booming bass. What more do you need?

Cafe del Mar on a cloudy day

There are a few nightspots of note on the mainland side of Sentosa Bridge.

Sleep

The cheapest place to stay is actually off the mainland on the Southern Islands. Camping is possible on St. John's Island, the Sisters Islands and Pulau Hantu, but free camping permits from the Sentosa Development Corporation (tel. +65 6275 0388) are required. Sentosa is not a particularly convenient base for sightseeing elsewhere in Singapore, and most of the accommodation targets visitors looking for a simple beach holiday. However, the Sentosa Express monorail has improved access to the mainland, so some excellent deals can be found if you scout around.

Mid-range

Splurge

Sentosa features a sprinkling of resort hotels catering to those who want a beach holiday within striking distance of the city.

There are a number of hotels at the Resorts World Sentosa integrated resort. All share the same reservation number, +65 6577 8899, and can also be booked online at Resorts World Sentosa .

Go next

Chinatown and Little India are easy stops on the North-east MRT line. Or check out the other integrated resort at Marina Bay.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 11, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.