Even though Singapore is an island, there are not many beaches where visitors would choose to spend a day sunbathing or playing beach volleyball. This is because of Singapore’s status as a major shipping port, which means a myriad giant tankers and container ships moored off the coastline. Not exactly the romantic backdrop for a beach escapade.
However, Singapore does have one ultimate beach destination named Sentosa, which means “peace and tranquility” in Malay. Sentosa is a grand tourist attraction, a popular island resort, located just off the southern coast of Singapore. Sentosa serves as a quick island getaway to some 5 million visitors annually. Promoted as “Asia’s Favorite Playground,” Sentosa boasts five-star hotels, golf courses, beaches, a sky tower, a casino, and an entire Universal Studios Singapore theme park.
There are numerous ways to get to Sentosa, all of which only take a few minutes of travel time and involve a minimum of SGD$2 admission fee. Currently, the easiest method is to first take public transport via the North-East MRT to HarbourFront. From there, make your way to Level 3 of VivoCity and catch the Sentosa Express monorail to the island. The train runs every 5-8 minutes from 7AM to 11:45PM daily, and an all-day ticket costs $3 (island admission included). There is an even more convenient option coming soon: the Sentosa Rider is a bus that will pick up passengers from Orchard Road, Marina Bay, and Chinatown.
Of all these methods, I opted for the more expensive, longer, but scenic route of riding the Cable Car over to the island. The Jewel Cable Car Ride provides service between Sentosa, HarbourFront and Mt. Faber, although I only did the trip between Harbourfront and Sentosa.
Before heading to Sentosa, I took my time wandering around VivoCity, which is a huge, sprawling retail and entertainment complex. There are fountains, a rooftop garden, cineplex, arcade, restaurants, and shops galore. I stumbled upon this awesome bakery called BreadTalk that had some interesting creations, like this egg and ham baked toast.
Following my quick breakfast, I headed over to the Cable Car terminal and was whisked away to Sentosa. At the time I visited, Sentosa was undergoing massive construction of its new crown jewel: Resorts World. Resorts World Sentosa, complete with a shopping mall, casino, theme park, and oceanarium, launched in 2010, but at the time of my visit in 2009 — this is what it looked like:
All transportation on Sentosa is free of charge, and through its networks of buses and beach trams, it is super easy to quickly hit up all the major points of interest on the island. The cable car dropped me off at Imbiah Lookout, which is the section that contains most of the museums and ride attractions, such as the Tiger Sky Tower and Luge. My first target was the giant 37m tall Merlion located on the island. Visitors have the option of climbing up to the top to check out the 360° views from the crown.
Around the base of the statue is the Merlion Walk, a 120m long mosaic walkway and fountain. When I first saw the colorful mosaic pathway, I immediately recognized the inspiration from the Parc Güell garden complex in Barcelona. The pathway also functions as in interactive fountain, and I joined some of the children splashing around the walkway.
I continued to follow the path down to the beach, and from there hopped on the various beach trams to check out all three major beaches: Siloso, Palawan, and Tanjong. Siloso Beach is the western most beach on the southern coast of Sentosa, and is a popular spot for beach volleyball, canoeing, skim boarding and other outdoor activities. There is even a flying trapeze here!
Palawan Beach is the centermost beach on the southern coast and tends to be more active in beach boozing rather than in beach sports like Siloso. In addition to its many beach bars, there is a tiny islet located off the coast from Palawan Beach that is said to be the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia, or Asia’s closest point to the Equator. There is a narrow suspension bridge connecting Palawan Beach to the islet.
Tanjong Beach is a secluded cresent-shaped beach located just east of Palawan. Tanjong is often used for private functions and parties.
As the sun began to set, crowds started to fill up the stadium to watch the nightly “Songs of the Sea” show, located between the Siloso and Palawan beaches. The show is advertised as pyrotechnics, water jets, brilliant lasers, captivating music and other dramatic effects. I did not watch it, but it seemed to be a very popular show for children and families. I imagine it to be sort of like a Disney-esque version of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.
I decided to head back to mainland before it got too dark, and I noticed Sentosa really enjoyed neon lights after dusk. Every attraction boasted colorful flashing neon lights at night, which gave the island a more cheesy Disneyland aesthetic.