Looking for a quick break from Singapore that can be done and dusted in just a few days and avoids a long flight? Here are five kid-friendly suggestions for getaways right on our doorstep.
1. Bintan, Indonesia
Probably the easiest escape from Singapore, the small Indonesian island of Bintan is only an hour away by ferry and offers a range of holiday options that can satisfy families eager for a beach break.
Where to stay: Nirwana Gardens Resort is set in 330 hectares of tropical gardens and has accommodation for all tastes, interests and budgets. There’s a family hotel with 245 rooms (and babysitting), rustic beachfront chalets, air-conditioned cabana cottages and luxury two- and three-bedroom villas with pools.
What to do: Even in a week, it’s impossible to participate in everything on offer including a kids’ club, flying fox, elephant and horse riding, archery, ball sports, paintball, rock trekking and cycling.
Getting there: Hop on the 55-minute high-speed catamaran from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, and catch a coach transfer to the resort grounds.
Insider tips: Check visa details before you leave home. The departure terminal can be busy (bring some snacks for the kids). Dune buggy adventures are a great way to have some muddy fun on Bintan.
2. Pulau Sibu, Malaysia
Picture a tropical island with no roads, chalets literally on the beach, surrounded by jungle and a beautiful, safe, virtually private sandy beach. This is the place for an old-fashioned family holiday.
Stay: Sea Gypsy Resort. Another option is nearby Rawa Island.
What to do: Children aged four and up will have a ball at the kids club. Or try diving and snorkelling, visit the sea village, walk around the island, or simply do nothing except listen to the waves breaking. This is the type of carefree holiday you may remember from your childhood.
Getting there: It’s about a three-hour drive from Singapore to Tanjong Lehman (drive yourself, or book the resort’s own bus – it’s easy and convenient), then a 20-minute boat ride to Sibu.
Insider tips: There are very few facilities on the island so go well prepared (medication, extra clothes, etc.). Some people report sand flies at dawn and dusk.
3. Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Located in central Java, this ancient capital of Indonesia has a royal palace dating back to the 1700s, a stunning (and active) volcano and UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples on a par with Angkor.
Insider tips: Not pram-friendly, so it’s probably better for children who are happy to walk for a few hours. Explore Kraton Kampong, an old neighbourhood surrounding the palace; kids will love the horse and carriage ride.
4. Penang, Malaysia
A melting pot of cultures, fascinating history and excellent food make the Malaysian island of Penang an interesting place to visit. Georgetown is the bustling, UNESCO-listed capital while Batu Ferringhi hosts a string of hotels along the beachfront.
What to do: Eat! Try the Red Lantern hawker market or the strip of restaurants along Gurney Drive. Don’t miss a buffet breakfast on the verandah at the E & O. Kids will also enjoy the Butterfly Farm and letting off some steam at Fort Cornwallis.
Getting there: A direct flight to Penang takes about one hour and 20 minutes.
Insider tips: Take a rickshaw through the streets and soak up the sounds and smells or take the train ride up to the Botanic Gardens. Get oriented on the free city bus that does a circuit of the streets.
5. Langkawi, Malaysia
With its million-year-old rainforest, towering mountain range and the azure Andaman Sea (National Geographic proclaimed Datai Bay the ninth best beach in the world in 2011), this is a place for the whole family.
Where to stay: The Andaman
What to do: Children five and up will have a fun and educational experience at the Junior Explorers’ Club, learning about nature, animals and coral; they can even watch monkeys on the beach trying to catch tiny crabs.
Getting there: It’s about an hour-and-a-half flight to Langkawi. Traffic on the roads is light, so it’s an easy and scenic 30-minute ride to the hotel.
Insider tips: Take the coral walk or the nature walk through the forest. With the kids occupied, treat yourself to a Kahuna Wave massage. Located in an open-air spa pavilion with only the sound of the waves on the beach below, this is heaven on earth.
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