The Southeast Asian island nation of Singapore is known for its tropical climate, exclusive hotels, celebrity chefs, and dramatic skylines. A former British colony before establishing independence in 1965, traces of its British heritage remain in everything from the nation's colonial architecture to its spectacular tea services.
But now, thanks to its pivotal role as the setting for Crazy Rich Asians, coming soon to theaters nationwide, Singapore, and in particular the resort island of Sentosa, will soon be familiar to millions of movie fans internationally. Before everyone (and their entire families) snap up tickets to this secluded island paradise, DEPARTURES visited Sentosa to explore the best this dream destination has to offer.
Singapore’s Island Retreat
Easy to reach from mainland Singapore by car, bus, monorail, cable car, or even a pleasant stroll on a landscaped boardwalk, Sentosa is a popular getaway for Singaporeans, who flock here for its white sand beaches, upscale hotels and restaurants, and thriving nightlife. (The name “Sentosa” was adopted in 1972, derived from Sanskrit and Malay words meaning “peace, tranquility, contentment.") In addition to stunning natural beauty, there’s also a casino, water park, aquarium, state of the art spas, and breathtaking homes, many of which are also highlighted in the film.
On arrival at Capella Sentosa, visitors are greeted by restored traditional 1880’s colonial bungalows, which form the entry to the resort. From there, the low rise, sun-bleached building curves gracefully through its setting among thirty lush acres. Cascading pools invite swimming or lounging under umbrellas and perhaps an encounter with one of the peacocks that roam the grounds. The elegant Auriga spa offers treatments, while Bob’s Bar provides libations with Havana-style vibes, and a breakfast buffet tempts with an omelet station, fresh fruit, pastries, and traditional Asian dishes. (1 The Knolls; capellahotels.com)
W Singapore-Sentosa Cove
This five-star hotel offers a range of rooms, many with private terraces and stunning views. Modern décor and dramatic lighting create a luxurious and exciting atmosphere throughout. The sizeable pool with complimentary cabanas and views of the South China Sea features Wet Bar for poolside cocktails and casual dining. At the Away Spa with its rainforest ambiance, herbal baths, sauna, steam room, a full range of treatments is available. (21 Ocean Way; starwoodhotels.com/whotels)
Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa Hotel
Set on a cliff above Tanjong Beach, this five-star hotel offers stunning views, its rooms and suites decorated with warm contemporary colors and stylish furnishings. LeBar serves an elegant Afternoon Tea with Asian savories and French pastries and in the evening, cocktails and wine with tapas. At So Spa, set in a 19th-century colonial building with lush landscaping, there’s an outdoor lap pool, waterfall, mud bath treatments and spa cuisine along with a full menu of relaxing and revitalizing treatments. (2 Bukit Manis Rd; sofitel-singapore-sentosa.com)
Cassia at Capella Sentosa offers Cantonese fare in an elegant contemporary setting, serving seasonal ingredients and traditional recipes with a modern touch. Skirt at W Sentosa Cove specializes in steaks and seafood, and guests have the option of the dining room with its soaring ceiling and elegant chandeliers or the more casual terrace for al fresco dining. The Cliff at the Sofitel features Italian cuisine in a chic setting with specialties prepared in its wood-smoked oven.
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora of Iron Chef fame, at the Equarius Hotel, serves her healthy dishes in an underwater environment flanked by an entire glass wall of Sentosa’s S.E.A. Aquarium. Forest, also at the Equarius, features contemporary Chinese fine cuisine in a rainforest-themed space with a menu that includes seafood, meat, noodles, and soups, under the direction of Chef Sam Leong.
Sentosa’s beach clubs are casual spots for all-day dining, brunch, or dinner. Tanjong Beach Club’s daytime menu transforms to dinner under the stars in a luxurious setting with sunset views and coastal cuisine, complete with white linens and attentive service. Ola Beach Club serves Hawaii-inspired cuisine along with beachside nightlife and music. (22 Sentosa Gateway, S.E.A. Aquarium; rwsentosa.com)
A short distance away on Singapore’s mainland is the world’s first Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant, blending authentic recipes with the contemporary touch of Chef Malcolm Lee. The Peranakan culture is Singapore’s ethnic hybrid of Chinese, Malay, Portuguese, Dutch, and Indonesian peoples, and is reflected in the restaurant's diverse offerings of Seafood, lamb, pork, and fresh seasonal produce. (17A Dempsey Rd; comodempsey.sg)
White Sand Beaches
Beach clubs, created with silky white sand brought in from neighboring countries, offer lounges by the shore, pools, palm trees, lively bars, shops, volleyball, kayaking, and evening dance parties. A few of the most popular are Tanjong Beach Club, Palawan Beach, and Siloso Beach.
Sentosa Nature Heritage Walks
Mapped out for visitors’ convenience, trails pass through forests teeming with birds, bats, endangered plants, and a variety of trees. Beach paths wind through coastal waters with coral, crabs, and anemones. Historic spots along the trails include Fort Siloso, a fully-restored military fort, and Fort Siloso Skyway, 125 feet above Sentosa for panoramic coastline views.
Gardens by the Bay
Less than ten minutes from Sentosa by car or taxi, this spectacular nature park includes the world’s largest column-free glass greenhouse with changing displays of flowers, trees, and exotic plants. In the separate Cloud Forest, the moist environment houses orchids, ferns, and tropical flora along with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The iconic "Supertrees," massive tree-shaped vertical gardens, are featured in a thrilling nighttime multimedia show and in the Crazy Rich Asians film. (18 Marina Gardens Dr; gardensbythebay.com)
How to get there
Sentosa is just a half hour from Singapore’s Changi Airport, recognized as one of the world’s best airports for its gardens, shops, theater, restaurants, snooze lounges, and amenities. A pleasant stopover for travelers, and an entertainment destination for locals. arriving at Changi Airport could be the beginning of your Singapore adventure, just as it was for Nick Young and Rachel Chu.