Words: Len Rutledge Pictures: Phensri Rutledge
Sentosa is a very popular island just south of the main Singapore island. It is visited by some five million people a year. It was first developed about 40 years ago but was often a disappointment to visitors. Now it is coming into its own and I suggest that it is a ‘must-visit’ place to see for all Singapore visitors. There are now sufficient offerings of interest to adults and children to keep everyone amused for a day or two.
There are basically four ways to reach Sentosa Island, the cable car from Mount Faber or Harbourside, the Sentosa Express light rail from VivoCity, the footbridge from near VivoCity, or a taxi from anywhere within Singapore.
The Sentosa Express light rail station is on the 3rd floor of the VivoCity shopping mall beside the large food court. You need to buy a ticket which currently costs S$4 round trip. The train operates every 5-8 minutes from 7 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. daily. Once on the island you can walk to many of the attractions but there are also three bus routes and one beach tram route to help you reach some of the more distant attractions.
Sentosa cable car
The cable car is the most exciting way to reach Sentosa. It begins at The Jewel Box on Mount Faber which houses a retail shop, the cable car station and five different restaurants and bars. This was constructed with the cable car in 1974. There is also a cable car station in HarbourFront Tower 2 near VivoCity. The current cable car cost is $26 (Adult) and $15 (Child) and while this seems high there is no disputing the fabulous view you get on the ride across to the island.
Beach Station is the end of the Sentosa Express light rail system and is a transfer hub for the bus and beach tram services. The beach stretches both east and west from here and you can walk in either direction.
Tanjong Beach and Palawan Beach are to the east. Tanjong Beach is popular for its tranquillity and solitude. The sand is clear, the water at times less so. The Tanjong Beach Club offers seafood from around the globe, tropical fruit cocktails, beach volleyball, a pool and entertainment at night.
Family-friendly Palawan Beach has good sand and interesting shops and eateries. There are wading pools and water fountains for kids to cool off in, an aviary and the Animal & Bird Encounters show. A suspension bridge links to the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia, a small islet with a viewing deck at the top of the towers which are located there.
Long Siloso Beach stretches to the west of Beach Station. This is claimed to be Singapore’s hippest beach, and on weekends it is alive with people day and night. There are bars, several shopping options, and bistros and restaurants.
This is also where you can access the 450 metre Zip-line which travels 75 metres above ground level at speeds of up to 60 km/h, across the jungle, the beach, and the sea.
Merlion Plaza has the Imbiah Sentosa Express station and the centre-point here is a 37-metre tall replica of the Merlion complete with viewing galleries and a souvenir shop. An admission fee applies. This forms a north-south axis through the island. The northern end leads to the Festive Terrace while in the south a winding walkway leads to the beach.
Escalators connect to the Imbiah Lookout area where there are several food outlets including Starbucks, The Arches, and Tastes of Singapore.
Images of Singapore
I think Images of Singapore is one of the better attractions in this area. It is an historical museum with exhibits showing the history of Singapore using multi-media displays, multi-screen theatre presentations and wax models. There are numerous exhibitions covering Malay rule, the British period, the Japanese occupation, and early independence under Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Madame Tussauds Singapore will open late 2014 and will include a boat ride known as ‘The Spirit of Singapore’, featuring iconic local landmarks. The ride will connect the new wax museum to the existing ‘Images of Singapore’ attraction in the same building.
Resorts World Singapore
Resorts World Sentosa has added a number of further attractions to the island. Marine Life Park is claimed to be the world’s largest oceanarium. It consists of several major attractions: S.E.A. Aquarium, the innovative Maritime Experiential Museum where you can experience Singapore’s past as a trading port, Dolphin Island, and Adventure Cove Waterpark.
Then there is the Trick Eye Museum which refers to an art technique that turns two-dimensional paintings into three-dimensional images through the use of optical illusions.
There are two free shows that you should see. Lake of Dreams is a spectacular choreographed display of fire, water and light with a musical score. It is presented every night at 9.30 p.m. at Festive Walk. Crane Dance is produced each night at 9.00 p.m. at the Waterfront.
Universal Studios Singapore
This has become sensational Sentosa biggest attraction. There are seven zones around a lagoon all with roller coasters or other movie-themed attractions. You can purchase your day passes online and save time queuing when you arrive at the park. A one day pass costs S$74 for adults and S$54 for children.
On weekends the park can get quite crowded so arriving early is a smart move. Normal operating hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. but they do vary throughout the year.
There is much more to Sentosa. Some of the other attractions are Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon, Fort Siloso, Wavehouse Sentosa, The Tiger Sky Tower, The Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom, Sentosa Nature Discovery and Nature Walk, Sentosa 4D Adventureland, Skyline Luge Sentosa, and iFly.
Wings of Time features dancing water fountains, enhanced pyrotechnic effects, and a live cast. You view the performance from a large open-air viewing gallery. The 25-minute show runs twice nightly every evening at a cost of S$18.
Len Rutledge is the author of Experience Singapore, an ebook available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NBJD2XY
Along the way he has started a newspaper, a travel magazine, a Visitor and TV guide and completed a PhD in tourism. His travels have taken him to more than 100 countries and his writings have collected a PATA award, an ASEAN award, an IgoUgo Hall of Fame award and other recognition.
He is the author of the Experience Guide ebook series which currently includes Experience Thailand, Experience Norway, Experience Northern Italy, Experience Myanmar, Experience Istanbul, Experience Singapore and Experience Ireland.