The big attractions
Universal Studios Sentosa, unlike our hazy childhood memories of Universal Studios Hollywood, is more about the rides than the magic of Hollywood. The rides are good – from the leg-dangling Battlestar Galactica to the 4D Transformers ride and the Jurassic Park water ride, with its animatronic dinosaurs – but the problem is that you’ll likely have to queue for more than an hour. We like the cute kid-friendly areas, Madagascar and Far Far Away (based on Shrek); the Marilyn Monroe and Beetlejuice impersonators; the retro Mel’s Drive-in and the 1920s Paris street. But there’s not quite enough to see and do without standing in queues. (Cost: adults $68-$74; children 4-12 $50-$54. Daily 10am-7pm)
Underwater World is starting to show its age a little but still has some good attractions, particularly the hypnotic, neon-bright jellyfish and a tank filled with giant reptilian fish whose species have been around for 250 million years. The 83m travelator is best at feeding times, when 2m sharks crowd around a diver handing out fish. It’s up to you whether you see the dolphin show – ethical concerns aside, the show feels like a bit of an anachronism, and the presenter’s English was barely audible on our visit. (Cost: adults $25.90; children 3-12 $17.60. Daily 10am-7pm)
The fun adventure activities
There are just about too many of these on Sentosa to mention, but here’s a shortlist:
The MegaZip (Cost: $35. Daily 11am-7pm) isn’t as scary as it promises to be, though it’s pleasant whizzing through the trees and over the water. The ParaJump ($15), also at the MegaZip Adventure Park, is scarier, like a mini bungee jump with a few seconds of freefall flight before you get caught gently by your rope.
The Gogreen Segway Eco Adventure ($38 for guided trip. Daily 10am-8.30pm) is overly tame, despite Jackie Chan’s endorsement – these things were designed for the elderly, so you feel especially goofy in your helmets and kneepads for the 30-minute tour, partly on the sand and partly on the tarmac from the Beach Station up towards Tanjong Beach, following the guide at all times.
WaveHouse ($35-$45 per hour Mon-Fri; $40-$50 Sat & Sun. Daily 10.30am-10.30pm) is perhaps the most challenging activity for beginners, with the cheaper prices for the easier wave (like a ramp with water shooting up) and the more expensive tags for the trickier barrel – we were getting the hang of the barrel at the end, and it’s a great feeling.
Our favourite fun activity, though, is the Luge and Skyride ($12.50, $18 or $22 for 1, 2 or 3 rides. Daily 10am-9.30pm) – though the tagline ‘once is never enough’ is apt, because the 650m or 688m length of the two runs feels too short. But it’s still fun, and you get a good few turns racing at top speed; we’d recommend two or even three runs.
A lot of the food is overpriced and mediocre, so it pays to pick well. Outside the entrance to Universal Studios, we like the kitschy Malaysian Food Street (Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri & Sat 9am-midnight; Sun 9am-10pm) – done up like, well, a Malaysian food street – where the Huen Kee Claypot Chicken Rice ($6-$7) is a highlight. Trapizza (Daily 11am-9.30pm) on Siloso Beach is a decent option for a wood-fired pizza (around $23) looking out over the beach.
There are loads of expensive restaurants on Sentosa, so – if you’re going to part with your cash – you might as well go for the top end with the Joël Robuchon Restaurant at Hotel Michael (6577 8888. Daily 5.30-10pm) or the more casual L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon next door, both created by a man with a combined 26 Michelin stars. While the highlight at the former is a wallet-busting 16-course dégustation menu ($485++), you can get mains from $41 at the latter.
When it comes to the booze, there are plenty of options. Azzurra (Mon-Fri 10am-10.30pm; Sat & Sun 10am-6am) on Siloso Beach feels like an own goal. A bar with a mini pool, jacuzzi and comfy seats – yet bad service, overpriced drinks and ear-splitting lounge music bring it down.
The more laidback Bikini Bar (Mon-Thu 2-11pm; Fri 2pm-1am; Sat & Sun 11am-11pm), closer to the station, is the simpler, better Siloso option, with regular beer deals (it’s still expensive – think three Asahis for $25).
Best of all is the chic Tanjong Beach Club (Tue-Fri 11am-11pm; Sat & Sun 10am-midnight), though its obvious attractions – the pool, the gorgeous beach, quality regular events – are again marred a little by lacklustre service and pricey drinks (beers $13-$16, cocktails $16-$24).
Yes, some aspects of Sentosa are nightmarish, from the crowds to the lurid branding. If you’re going to do the big stuff like Universal Studios, try to go on a weekday. Yet if you sneak off to a corner of Tanjong Beach for a picnic, stroll along Siloso as the sun goes down or take a late-night luge, Sentosa can be fun. And, hey, it’s a beach island a few MRT stops away – it would be churlish to complain too much.