“What, a staycation on Sentosa?” is a remark we often get at City Nomads. After all, once you exhaust the beaches and the tourist attractions on the island, it doesn’t hold much allure. Uninspiring as it appears to be – totally false, by the way – there’s no denying that most times I visit, I’m quickly blanketed by a mood of leisure and play. Is it the camera-strapping white people and Japanese women in gargantuan sun hats, or the vain peacocks strutting around like they own the place? Perhaps, the number of spectacular hospitality destinations there has a part to play as well.
The Amara Sanctuary Resort, nestled beautifully on a hillside and surrounded by 3.8 hectares of gardens and tropical rainforest, is for one, very impressive. Launched in 2007, the five-star boutique resort is a superb blend of old-world charm and new-world style – as you’ll be able to tell at the lobby. Step through the glass doors and expect to be greeted by an expansive white foyer with floor-to-ceiling windows and marble flooring; and while waiting to check in, how about some complimentary kacang putih and refreshing iced tea?
Overlooking the South China Sea and the white sands of Palawan beach, the well-designed guest rooms are great, the suites better, and the villas outstanding. My accommodation, a recently revamped One Bed Room Villa is massive, to say the least. While I’ve had experience with villas that opened right into the living room, what you first see here is your courtyard, and with it, a personal 1.4-metre lounge pool, plus a cabana with two pool beds for your suntanning pleasure. At the back – an outdoor patio with retractable awning and a solid four-person dining table for drinks.
To your right, you’ll find the living room, and to the left, your ensuite bedroom. The former has all the modern amenities of a premium hotel room, and it’s designed to include elements from your surroundings: comfortable herb green fibre couches, plenty of natural lighting, and pots of lush plants and flowers that create the idyllic atmosphere of an exotic island. You’ll find a 42-inch LED television with plenty of cable channels, Nespresso machine (it seems to be a prerequisite these days, isn’t it?), complimentary mini bar, and free WiFi throughout the property. And get this, there’s a toilet here, so you don’t have to walk to the other room just to do your business.
The bedroom is just as spacious, though a tad dimmer – such is the beauty of having separate living and sleeping quarters. I first notice the king-size canopy bed draped with a swath of light cloth and think “Great! No need to worry about mosquitoes tonight”. It is an ornate feature that shouts out to the resort’s colonial history, though it does need some getting used to. Otherwise, the furnishings on this side are modest: Scandinavian lamps, a small bedside table, several wooden cabinets, another TV, and a large bathroom area with two sinks (and luxurious eucalyptus soap), enough towels for six, and separate shower stall and toilet. A door in the toilet leads outside to a single stone bathtub, well-shielded from prying eyes by opaque glass doors. This is where you grab a glass of wine, lie back, and listen to the occasional shrieks from the nearby Battlestar Galactica ride.
For all its size, it suffices to say that the villa is better suited for families with children or a sizeable group of friends – a birthday party or celebration, maybe? Inseparable couples on a splurge can look to other room options at Amara Sanctuary like the 58 sqm Larkhill Terrace Suites (with exclusive access to an infinity lap pool and jacuzzi) or the 61 sqm Verandah Studios, which as you might guess, includes a private outdoor verandah.
There are four outdoor swimming pools on the property: the aforementioned Larkhill Terrace one, another rooftop infinity pool, and a large dream pool and children’s pool located in the resort’s tropical gardens. You may like Spa Luna, the on-site treatment venue nestled in an elegant pre-war colonial building with open greenery views and tranquil water features, and Aileron Wellness, the cosy boutique gym with top-notch training equipment and certified trainers on hand.
In the morning, we get breakfast at Shutters – Amara’s all-day dining restaurant – and are pleasantly impressed. The solid buffet spread focuses on continental cuisine, and sees a slight inclination towards Asian flavours. Cold cuts, sausages, and eggs aside, you’ll find all the makings of a Japanese meal (short-grain rice, tsukemono, tamago, miso soup, and even fermented soybeans) alongside some Korean items (kimchi and spicy rice cakes). But don’t forget the local fare: you tiao, chicken ginseng porridge, steamed buns, and hot soya milk.
Elsewhere, a five-minute walk takes you to Palawan Beach or the Imbiah Station, while Universal Studios Singapore is another five minutes by bus. Do make it a point to explore Sentosa island, even if you’ve been there before, because if you’re going to be ‘stranded’ on an island, it might as well be one with white sandy beaches, museums, and Luge tracks. Oh, and flamboyant peacocks too.
Amara Sanctuary Sentosa is located at 1 Larkhill Rd, Sentosa Island, Singapore 099394. For reservations, please call +65 6922 6922 or email to email@example.com. See here for the latest deals and packages.