A decade ago, Sentosa was a very, very different place and you probably wouldn’t have recognised it. In 2002, it was primarily a quick getaway for Singaporeans, where it was never too crowded and had a peaceful deserted island feel to it. Its attractions were slightly cheesy, but very charming nonetheless. Ask any true-blue Singaporean about Underwater World and the Musical Fountain and they will go all nostalgic over it.
The Sentosa of today has undergone a major renovation and everything has changed. The island now boasts a lavish casino, stylish hotels, world-class attractions, world-class restaurants and a wide arsenal of activities to cater to almost everyone, whether it is going wild on the newest ride at Universal Studios or appreciating the exquisite flowers at the Sentosa Nature Walk.
Entertainment is now serious business on Sentosa and as a result, more people are flocking to the island than ever before, 19 million people in 2011, up 7.3 per cent from 2010.
With so many choices on offer - 37 attractions and over 111 dining establishments at current count - planning a day out at the island can get a bit overwhelming.
So we have rummaged through the numerous options at Sentosa and picked out the best the island has to offer, whether you’re an early bird, a late riser or if you’re in the mood for some drinks and dinner.
Places don’t open until 10am in Sentosa, but breakfast at the nearby Seah Im Food Centre (2 Seah Im Rd.) has been a long-standing tradition with Sentosa-goers for decades. The fish soup (#01-18), prawn noodles (#01-56) and Malay chicken rice (#01-45) are particularly good.
Get a bird's eye view of Singapore and Sentosa
Stunning views of the Singapore skyline - where you can see the nearby HDB estate of Telok Blangah, the surrounding rainforest tree line and on a clear day, the southern islands of Singapore like St John's and Bukom - can be had at the nearby Mount Faber (accessible via taxi or bus service 409 from the Harbourfront bus interchange) and the Singapore Cable Car Ride (The Jewel Box, 109 Mount Faber Rd.; 63779636, Adult: $29, child: $18 for a round trip) at the top is a great way to enter Sentosa. There are spectacular overviews of the harbour and you can see the whole expanse of the island.
Learn more about Singapore's past at Images of Singapore
The ride will take you to Imbiah Lookout, in the heart of Sentosa. Situated on its highest hilltop, there are 11 attractions here. The Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom (Imbiah Lookout 51, Cable Car Rd., 62750013. Adult: $16, child: $10) is of note as it has some 3,000 species of insects, some rare and endangered, in an outdoor aviary. You can see more than 50 different species of butterflies and the largest beetle in the world; the 166mm long Dynastes Hercules. Also worth the time is Images of Singapore (Imbiah Lookout 40 Imbiah Rd., 62750388. Adult: $10, child: $7) which offers a detailed history of Singapore from colonial to current times, perfect for first-timers to Singapore. In particular, on display are beautiful Peranakan embroidery and the various colourful wedding outfits from Singapore's different cultures.
Universal Studios' Battlestar Galactica ride
From here, you can head to most parts of the island via free bus shuttles.
You can choose to go to the north-western part of Sentosa, which is home to Universal Studios Singapore (Resorts World Sentosa; 65778888. Adult: $74, child: $54 for peak one day passes), the region’s only Hollywood movie theme park, which draws in huge crowds and will likely take up the whole day. There are a total of 24 rides, including the thrilling Battlestar Galactica where you whiz at speeds of 82.2km/h at heights of over 42 metres and TRANSFORMERS The Ride, an immersive adventure ride which uses 3D and state of the art visual effects to transport you inside the Transformers universe.
The Souk Gallery of the Maritime Experiential Museum
If nautical adventure is your thing, the Maritime Experiential Museum(RWS. Adult: $5, child: $2), is nearby. It is the first museum to chart the 1,100 year history of the Maritime Silk Road which connects Asia and Europe. In addition to more than 400 artifacts on display, check out the full-size replica of Admiral Cheng Ho's massive Treasure Ship.
Also look out for the Marine Life Park (RWS), which is set to open before the end of the year is up. Covering an area of over eight hectares, the marine park is set to be the largest oceanarium in the world and will house some 700,000 marine creatures, including some 25 wild Indo-pacific bottle nose dolphins, which has been a source of some controversy. It also includes the Adventure Cove Waterpark attraction which will feature Southeast Asia’s first hydromagnetic coaster, the Riptide Rocket, which combines the thrills of a roller coaster and the excitement of a water ride.
Zip down 650m from the top of Sentosa
The other option is to head down to Siloso Beach via the Skyline Luge Sentosa (Imbiah Lookout, 45 Siloso Beach Walk; 62740472. $12.50), a non-motorised go kart/toboggan hybrid thrill ride not found anywhere else in Asia. On one of its trails, you'll zip 650 metres downhill through the rainforest in this three minute thrill ride. Alternatively, there is the MegaZip Adventure Park (Imbiah Hill Rd.; 68845602. $35) where the highlight is a 450m racing zip line, where you whiz past the forest tree line and down to a small island off Siloso beach. Guaranteed to either cure or cause a lifelong fear of heights.