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Sentosa Staycation: Our tropical short break in Singapore

When you can’t face flying out of Singapore with a young family, opt for a staycation instead. Lara Sage headed for Sentosa. 

Having lived in Singapore for years and having had my children here, I thought I knew all of the island’s gems. I was in for an eye-opener when we chose to spend a few nights at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort.

It has the Shangri-La’s usual impeccable finishing touches, with stylish natural décor and green accents. It’s all very tasteful, yet with the comfortable atmosphere of a beach resort.

Rasa Sentosa boasts a huge Kids’ Club, with a double-story indoor tree-house. My children (ages 7 and 5) indulged in indoor and outdoor activities including craft-making, water games and treasure hunts, and circus acts on the hotel’s beachfront trapeze, all under the watchful eye of well-trained and intuitive staff. I realised I’d reached a milestone as a mum when I was cheerfully waved off by my children as they dashed into the play area, and I had nothing more to do than relax at CHI, The Spa (the acclaimed Shangri-La in-house spa brand) or lie beside the pool.

When we moved to Singapore 10 years ago, Sentosa was a more humble place – many longstanding expats will recall the quirky monorail, and the way it passed through simple mist sprays to cool the sweaty visitors to the island. There are easier ways to get there now: by car over the bridge, by colourful sky train, or – for a bird’s-eye view – in a glass cable-car. The holiday begins with the journey!

Heading to the hotel via cable car
Heading to the hotel via cable car


Rasa Sentosa’s entry-level rooms are hill-facing, and just as appealing as those facing the pool and sea, as they look straight onto jungle vegetation. Meanwhile, the pool-facing and sea-facing rooms have wonderful balconies and great vistas out over the ocean. It’s no problem for a small family with young ones to stay in one room, using a sleeper couch for the children. Whichever room you’re in, you’ll have to keep reminding yourself that you’re still in Singapore, as the salty breeze moves through the hotel’s open lobbies and balconies.

The hotel has a number of restaurants, each with its own theme. I loved the local flair of 8Noodles, with its Art Deco look; and the children were delighted by their own breakfast buffet station, at eye level and tailored to their appetites. We were similarly impressed with Casserole – especially the fresh seafood. Friends joined us for dinner there one night from mainland Singapore.

While the little monorail of yesteryear is gone, some other well-loved long-standing attractions remain on the island. These are juxtaposed with modern additions such as zip-lines and 4D adventure rides, and theme parks suited to various ages.

You may find, however, that you don’t need to leave the hotel to keep the family entertained. The Rasa Sentosa pool features three waterslides, a real attraction for young ones, while parents and children can share in various activities, including water aerobics and balancing on surfboards. I won’t forget the workout required when doing “aquasizes” in the pool, laughing through it with my son and daughter hanging off my shoulders, in front of an instructor dressed as a clown! Our family’s time together at this resort was precious – and fun – and it was no effort at all to get there, or home again.

The Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom
The Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom


Seven Sentosa Highlights

Suggestions for a few fun and fulfilled days

1. Views from the glass cabins of the Singapore Cable Car take in Sentosa, the mainland, and the CBD, along with some colonial houses nestled on the slopes of Mount Faber. Another reason to take the ride is that it links Sentosa to VivoCity for shopping and dining, though we enjoyed the round trip purely as an excursion on its own.

2. The Tiger Sky Tower offers another way to take in the view, in a slowly turning seated observation tower that goes up and down.

3. Ride the Sentosa Luge downhill to the sea, then take the open-air Skyride chairlift back to the top. Younger children can ride in front of parents on the same luge. The chairlift is hair-raising with little ones, but super for those unafraid of heights.

4. The Butterfly Park and Insect Kingdom allows young children to see the wonder of butterflies emerging from chrysalises and watch as the creatures settle on their hands. Exotic lizards and birds enhance the experience, and older children and interested adults will enjoy the scientific discoveries to be made.

5. Young children will want to stay for ages at Port of Lost Wonder, a stationary pirate ship on the beach that offers slides, waterspouts and shallow pools. Activities such as bubble parties and treasure hunts keep the kids entertained.

6. Great fun for slightly older and braver children, and adults, is the MegaZip Adventure Park. This facility has zip-lines and a range of outdoor climbing activities, all set in the tropical jungle.

7. The renowned Songs of the Sea spectacle has been replaced by a new show called Wings of Life, another exciting display of water fountains, lights and fireworks. The 7.40pm and 8.40pm timeslots allow for a great evening stroll along the beach after dinner, followed by a fun family activity before bed.

Songs of the Sea on Sentosa
Songs of the Sea on Sentosa


See sentosa.com for more details on what the island has to offer.
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