Hiking at Sentosa
Many people know Sentosa for its beaches and fun activities like the Skyline Luge Sentosa, but it’s more than just that. There are hiking trails tucked away in deeper pockets of the island that are rich in nature and historical significance.
From natural waterfalls to amazing shoreline views, here is a complete guide to hiking at Sentosa so you won’t miss out on any of these gems that are “hidden” on the island.
Planning your route
Surprise, surprise – Sentosa Island is home to various hiking trails. Depending on what you’re interested in seeing, there are different ways you can approach this hike.
There are 3 main trails that you can visit:
- Historical Trail (50 minutes)
- Mount Imbiah Nature Trail (45 minutes)
- Coastal Trail (1 hour 50 minutes)
There are also smaller trails like the Gun Trail and Heritage Trail situated within the Coastal Trail. If you’re looking for a particular attraction or trail, you can take any number of free public transports available in Sentosa directly to the location of your choice.
Start your journey at Imbiah Station
Imbiah Station is the central location that connects all 3 trails. If you choose to walk into Sentosa via the boardwalk, this would be the best starting point. From here, you can take the free bus service, the Sentosa Express monorail, or cycle to your destination.
P.S. Do note that cycling is not permitted on the Mount Imbiah Nature Trail – you can leave your bicycle at the bus stop outside the entrance of the trail before going in.
Historical Trail – Former military buildings
As most of us know from Social Studies classes, Sentosa was once a British military base. Hence, you’ll find former barracks and officer’s quarters that have been converted to luxury hotels.
To visit these former bases, exit to the right of Imbiah Station and you’ll see a roundabout where cars are funnelled into different directions. Head towards the roundabout and turn right to walk up Artillery Avenue.
The buildings still retain their original white facade, which makes for good photo opportunities.
After a short walk, you’ll come across a driveway leading into the Former Recreation Grounds and Barracks, which is now home to the Oasia Hotel.
The hotel has much to offer, with services like Mobot Foldable Bicycles for rent at the reception and award-winning cuisine served up by the Bedrock Origin restaurant. This makes it an ideal place for a staycation if you’re looking for luxury and a great location that is close to the monorail station.
The Former Power Station’s walls have been decorated with murals that are worth a look.
Returning to the main road, continue walking up and you’ll pass 2 smaller military buildings, the Former Royal Engineer’s Yard and the Former Power Station.
As you walk further up Artillery Avenue, you’ll reach another driveway that leads up a hill where the final attraction is located. Perched atop a small hill, the Former Officer’s Mess and Quarters is now the site of Capella Sentosa.
And while the exterior facade maintains its original design, the compound on the inside boasts a spacious courtyard and an ocean view so you can pretend you’re living the high life in Bali.
Mount Imbiah Nature Trail – 3 different natural waterfalls
Image adapted from: Google maps
The next trail to visit on the map is the Mount Imbiah Nature Trail. The route takes you through the forested part of the island and is part of the larger Imbiah Trail.
This 2.3km-long trail offers uneven dirt terrain with lots of undergrowth, so more adventurous hikers can visit this site directly via Sentosa’s Intra-Island Bus A or C, which stops directly outside the entrance.
The trail’s entrance is shrouded by trees, leaving only a small opening for visitors to enter – going through the entrance is like walking into an entirely different world.
As you proceed up the paved road, you’ll find the beginning of the dirt path and the gate of Mount Imbiah Nature Trail.
Enter through the gate and you’ll see a giant map where you can take note of all the area’s highlights and unique wildlife that inhabit the area.
Singapore’s heat may be unbearable for some, but this trail will take you under a dense canopy of trees – a good sign for those who are terrified of sunburns. But if you do need a break, there are plenty of rest stops along the path where you can seek refuge.
It’s also a cool place to take fun photos but swimming is not allowed.
Walking along the route will lead you to the first of the 3 natural waterfalls, the Imbiah Falls. This waterfall is perhaps one of Sentosa’s best-kept secrets and is also a good reminder that Sentosa has more to offer than beach clubs and amusement parks.
As you venture deeper into the route, you’ll find the first diverging point that leads uphill. Break off from the main path and head up this narrow inclined road if you want to check out the Mount Imbiah Gun Battery and a high elements course.
And while the high elements course is not open to the public, the Imbiah Lookout Tower is, allowing you to climb to the top for amazing views.
Part of Singapore’s coastal defences back in WWII, this 10m-tall lookout tower gives visitors a clear view of the ocean. It also offers a bird’s–eye view of the gun placement complex directly below the tower.
Explore the complex where heavy artillery cannons stood and learn more about the historical significance of Sentosa through the information plaques on the walls.
Returning to the main path and walking ahead will take you to the second waterfall, the Tempinis Cascade, which is much larger than the first.
This waterfall is named after the unique trees that grow around the area. Fun fact: these trees are also responsible for giving the Tampines neighbourhood its name.
As you continue down the path, don’t forget to snap a picture of the manmade fossilised dinosaur bones that gives the trail a Jurassic Park vibe.
You’ll also pass a flight of stairs leading down from the Mount Imbiah Nature Trail. This takes you to the main road and the Coastal Trail so remember to backtrack to this diverging path after visiting the third waterfall.
The final waterfall, known as the Rock Dragon Waterfall, lies just ahead of the diverging path and is the most visually exciting of all the waterfalls. The water accumulates in the mouth of the dragon and only flows out when it’s full. So you’ll need to wait a minute or two if you’re hoping to snap a photo of it in action.
Coastal Trail – Skywalk & WWII heritage hike
Image credit: Google maps
The Coastal Trail is Sentosa’s longest trail that spans 1.8km, most of which is on paved roads. It’s also one of the trails that you can cycle on so if you’re looking to take a break from walking, you can rent a bicycle and enjoy the coastal breeze and shoreline views.
For those looking to cycle or trek along the coastline, the best place to start would be along Siloso Road. To get there, you can take Sentosa’s Intra-island Bus A or C and alight at Siloso Point.
The descent can be a little steep so do slow down especially if you’re on a bicycle.
The initial stages of the Coastal Trail is similar to the Mount Imbiah Nature Trail, where the canopy of trees shields the path from the sun. The route leads downhill as you descend from the elevated road to the shoreline down by the coast.
Walk down the winding path of the road and you’ll emerge from the shade of the forest onto an open seaside road. The view of the ocean alongside the shrubbery and a clear line of sight of Keppel Bay on the opposite side makes for great photo opportunities.
You can expect to see multiple totem poles that are scattered across the stretch of the coastline road that used to be part of the old ferry terminal. Now, they are used to add pops of colour and personality to this charming road.
If you need to take a short break, there’s a white bench that you can stop at for a quick breather while you take in the view and cooling sea breeze.
Here, you’ll also catch a glimpse of remnants of the jetty that was used by the British back when they needed to transport military equipment from the mainland.
Heritage Trail & Gun Trail – WW2 history & military weapons display
Image credit: Brendan Yee
For the history buffs looking to indulge in a trip down memory lane, the Heritage Trail and Gun Trails would be the routes that you would want to take.
Check out some of the military installations from WW2 on the Heritage Trail. Many of the buildings have been converted into historical museums and showcase different aspects of life during that period.
Besides checking out murals of wartime stories and anecdotes, you can also visit the Casemates, where there’s a mini theatre that plays a short video about the evolution of modern Singapore. It’s a good place to take a seat, enjoy the air–conditioning and learn about our history.
And one of the key highlights of the trail is the Surrender Chamber. This building is open from 10am-5.30pm and houses life-sized mannequins of British and Japanese soldiers that will give Madame Tussaud’s a run for her money.
The Gun Trail, on the other hand, offers a more exciting perspective of Singapore during WW2. As the name implies, this trail focuses on the military weaponry used by British forces during their time here.
As you traverse along the trail, you’ll get more opportunities to inspect the rest of the heavy weaponry as they flank the sides of the path or stand on display at different checkpoints.
To top off the hike, climb the Siloso Skywalk bridge that overlooks both sides of the island. The skywalk forms a direct link between the Heritage Trail, Gun Trail, and the nearest bus stop if you’re entering from Fort Siloso.
From this 11-story bridge, you can catch a clear view of Siloso Beach and the Bungee Jumping tower in the far distance on the right.
Looking to the left, you can see Keppel Bay, and even catch a glimpse of Movies By The Beach.
If you are looking for a guided trail, check out this Imbiah and Fort Siloso Trail.
Exploring Sentosa’s hiking trails
Sentosa may not be the first place you think of when planning a hiking trip. Sure, the route may not be as challenging as other hiking spots in Singapore, but the trails here do possess some unique qualities – think waterfalls and unparalleled coastal views that are hard to beat. It’s a great alternative for both hiking enthusiasts and history buffs.
For more hiking guides, check out
- Southern Rides hiking guide
- Puaka Hill, Pulau Ubin hiking guide
- Clementi Forest hiking guide
- Keppel Hill Reservoir hiking guide
Photography by Huiwen Chan.