Sentosa: the playground of South East Asia. In a country so small that people seem to live on top of one another, this valuable land space seemed to me to be dedicated to one thing and one thing alone – having fun!
Described on paper as an ‘island resort’, it’s reported that more than 15 million people per year visit it for its white sand beaches, golf courses, luxury hotels, 50+ restaurants, aquarium, dolphin swimming and theme parks.
Sentosa never started out as such a hedonistic location however; it was originally designed as defensive point for Singapore thanks to its strategic location. Forts were originally built in the early 19th century and it became an Allied military fortress during WW2. Nowadays, the forts themselves are an attraction, with Fort Siliso preserved with interactive exhibits on WW2.
While the island has an area of less than two square miles, this is being added to constantly by the process of land reclamation – something that Singapore has become well known for. This basically means that they are busy creating new land from the sea. The extent to which this process takes place was highlighted to me nicely at Raffles Hotel. Raffles sits on Beach Road which in the 1960s was apt for its coastal location. Today, there is no beach – or sea – in sight from the hotel that I could see.
Back to Sentosa, and overall it makes a brilliant day away from the hustle and bustle of the city, particularly for those with children. Here are some quick highlights you might want to add to your Singapore to-do list:
Of its three beaches, Palawan Beach has a particular draw with its suspension bridge allowing visitors to stand on the southernmost point of Continental Asia, as well as Asia’s closest point to the Equator! Beach volleyball addicts might want to stop by Siliso Beach where the action seems to happen, and carry on into the evening enjoying its variety of bars and restaurants. Finally, a laidback couple looking to relax should stop by Tanjong Beach, the most tranquil beach of the three, to watch the sun go down.
This cluster of attractions lost some of its space to newcomer Resorts World Sentosa in 2010, but it still has plenty to keep a family busy. From the butterfly park, to the luge (which is fantastic fun by the way), the pace offered is varied. For a great panorama, stop by the Tiger Sky Tower which rises 131 metres to offer views across Singapore and into Malaysia.
Resorts World Sentosa
The newest of the developments on Sentosa, this high-adrenaline complex offers a Sea Life Aquarium, Marine Life Park, Adventure Cove Waterpark and a Universal Studios. I was at the soft opening of Universal Studios which is great, but as a word of warning, it mirrors Singapore itself in being fairly limited in size! In my opinion, Resorts World brings ‘the best’ of Western entertainment culture to an Asian city which lacks authenticity considering its location, yet does unarguably provide hours of entertainment.
In the country that provides visitors a truly Western-Asian experience, Sentosa is the ultimate playground that allows you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, especially those with children – or those ‘children’ of all ages!
Top Tips for Sentosa:
- To make the most of your day, purchase day passes that allow you flexible entrance to attractions online in advance. A day play pass covering up to 16 attractions costs $69 as I write, promising to offer value for money if you have a few activities planned. Alternatively, entrance can also be bought for individual attractions if you want to only do a quick visit or just have one or two paid for activities in mind.
- Download the MySentosa smartphone app in advance to be aware of what can be found around you when you are there. This makes life a lot easier in comparison to trying to follow a map.
- Getting to Sentosa couldn’t be easier as there are a number of options: by cable car, the Sentosa Express train (from the VivoCity shopping mall) or on the tropical garden themed boardwalk connecting the island to the mainland. More details on these can be found on the official Sentosa website.
- When on Sentosa, use the tram to get around quickly. It helps to save your feet and can take you straight from one attraction to another.
Have you been to Sentosa? Got any recommendations for others? I’d love to hear what you thought!