Billed as "Asia's favourite playground", Sentosa offers Singapore's best beaches and more than 30 attractions packed onto a small island. Some attractions, like Underwater World Aquarium and Universal Studios Amusement Park, are world-class while others, like the giant Merlion and sky-diving simulator, are a bit of a stretch. Whatever your take on this family-friendly wonderland, Sentosa is a major draw and attracts over 5 million visitors and their dollars every year. Hotels, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops can be found across the island.
Though it certainly gives the impression, Sentosa is not an artificial island and is noted on maps dating back to the 1700s. At that time it was called Pulau Blakang Mati, which roughly translates to "Island of Death from Behind" in Malay. The British were apparently unperturbed by the ominous name and chose it as the site for military forts to protect the Singapore port. Fort Siloso is now open to the public as a World War II museum and the gun batteries infamously pointing toward the sea are still there. Unfortunately, the Japanese did not attack from the sea as expected and the Fort, as well as the rest of Singapore, surrendered. After the war a nationwide contest was held to rename the island. The winner, Sentosa, means "peace and tranquillity".
In 2010 the island became the site of Singapore's first casino with the opening of Resorts World Sentosa. With this "integrated resort" (‘casino' is apparently a dirty word) has come new hotels, boutiques, celebrity chef restaurants, and nightly sound and light shows. More attractions are in development including a water park and maritime museum.
While most Sentosa establishments cater to kids, a few beach bars and nightclubs can be found along Siloso Beach. This is also where the ZoukOut beach party is held every December.
Sentosa is an island and, in order of ascending price, can be reached by a boardwalk (S$1), bus (S$2), Sentosa Express monorail (S$3), or cable car (S$24 adult / S$14 children one-way). Whichever you choose, they all depart from VivoCity Mall at Harbourfront MRT station. The monorail is rightfully the most popular. Once you've paid the fare you can ride the monorail between the three stations on Sentosa as much as you like.
Departing from VivoCity Mall (Sentosa Station), the first stop is Waterfront Station which serves the Resorts World complex and Universal Studios. The second stop, Imbiah Station, is convenient for The Merlion, Tiger Tower, and the Luge and Skyride. Beach Station is the final stop and located at the waterfront near the Songs of the Sea amphitheatre.
From east to west, Sentosa's three beaches are Tanjong, Palawan, and Siloso. Tanjong Beach is the most isolated and ideal if you hope to have a patch of sand to yourself. Palawan Beach is a favourite for families with young children and has a splash fountain, free animal shows, and reasonably-priced food court. Siloso is the beach to see and be seen with beach bars, beach volleyball courts, and adrenaline-pumping rides like a trapeze and zip line. The westernmost part of Siloso Beach is reserved for guests of the Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa, Singapore's only beachfront resort. All of Sentosa's beaches have changing facilities and places to eat.
Getting around Sentosa is a breeze with complimentary trams and buses that cover the island coast to coast. Most attractions are within easy walking distance of each other and it's possible to rent a bicycle.
International ATMs can be found at Beach Station and the cable car arrival area at Imbiah Station.
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Text and/or map last updated on 4th November, 2014.