Singapore’s off-shore islands
Alright, so you got a bunch of ALs that you need to clear but you’re not keen on travelling out of Singapore. Surprise, you can still have an overseas trip without the need for your red passport. We’ve got a list of 10 Singapore islands you can explore with activities that include temple visits, diving trips, and even educational tours. Read on to find out more:
Table of Contents
1. Lazarus Island & Pulau Seringat
An offshoot of St. John’s Island, Lazarus Island is one of Singapore’s best-kept beaches. The existing 800m stretch at Pulau Seringat is now a reclaimed beach overlooking a beautiful lagoon that is perfect for swimming in.
Things to do: The next time you’re craving for white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, forget the Maldives and head to a replica just a boat ride away. Fool your friends with a Boracay geotag when you snap a photo on Instagram; they’ll never know the difference.
Getting there: Take a round-trip ferry ride from Marina South Pier ($15), and turn left upon disembarkation at St. John’s jetty.
Book a trip to St John’s, Lazarus and Kusu islands.
2. Coney Island
Nah, this is not Coney Island in New York, although a few entrepreneurs had plans to develop the island into the Brooklyn theme park back in 1950. These plans didn’t see the light of day but the name stuck. Thereafter, the island was a popular picnic ground for locals. The Aw brothers of Haw Par Villa also once owned the island and built a mansion which now stands abandoned.
Also known as Pulau Serangoon, this island is scheduled to be launched as part of the new Watertown Punggol that is located next to Punggol Waterway. The 45-hectare area will be made into a commercial and residential site, with half of the island sporting a beach that faces the Johor Strait.
Things to do: There isn’t a Ferris wheel or a carnival but the existing evergreens create natural forested walkways where bird-watching is strongly recommended. There is also a small stretch of beach with a view of Pulau Ubin in the distance.
Getting there: Walk across the connecting walkway from Punggol Promenade Nature Walk.
3. Pulau Ubin
The most popular offshore island in Singapore after Sentosa, Pulau Ubin is a small island brimming with rich history. In direct translation, Pulau Ubin is Malay for ‘Granite Island’, attributed to the granite quarries that used to be in operation back in the day. This rustic slice of Singapore is what’s left to remind mainland residents of its origins 50 years back.
House no. 1 at Chek Jawa Wetlands.
Things To Do: Our guide to Pulau Ubin has an extensive list of things to do for all ages. This includes exploring easy walking trails, including one that leads up to Puaka Hill. It’s a 10-minute climb but you’ll be rewarded with uninterrupted views of the island.
We also couldn’t leave out a visit to Chek Jawa Wetlands that’s situated on Pulau Ubin itself. The nature reserve has boardwalks that link to 6 different ecological habitats such as mangroves and coastal forests. Multiple habitats equal a rich biodiversity where you’ll be able to spot all sorts of native wildlife.
Getting there: Take a bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal ($4).
4. Kusu Island
Image credit: @_henry.hu_ via Instagram
Kusu Island gets its name from the Hokkien word for tortoise – kusu. Not because you can find these reptiles here, but because the island used to resemble a tortoise before land reclamation.
There’s even a myth surrounding the island which states that a giant tortoise saved 2 men – 1 Chinese, 1 Malay – who were shipwrecked. In gratitude, they built a temple and shrine on the island. The island has now become a sanctuary for Muslim and Taoist worshippers who come here to pay their respects.
Things to do: The Chinese temple, aka Da Bo Gong Temple, here is open for visiting and is said to be popular with childless devotees who are looking to conceive in the near future.
You can also visit the Muslim shrine, which is instantly recognisable thanks to its bright yellow facade. Bring a permanent marker with you and you can scribble your wishes on the walls of the shrine for luck.
There’s also a literal meaning to this place – Kusu Island is home to a tortoise sanctuary situated somewhere in the middle of the island. You’ll also find many more of them at the pond inside the Da Bo Gong Temple.
Getting there: Take a round trip from Marina South Pier ($15).
5. Sisters’ Islands
Image credit: Jensen Chua
These islands talk about blood over water – literally. Legend has it that the Sisters’ Islands got their name from 2 sisters who were about to be forced into marriage by pirates. The girls swam away in an attempt to escape but unfortunately drowned, and 2 islands emerged from the spots where they were last seen.
Image credit: Jensen Chua
Things to do: These days, the islands are good for a day of leisurely water activities. It’s a popular snorkeling spot since the clear waters mean high visibility to see corals, giant clams, seahorses, and on rare occasions, black-tip reef sharks.
Getting there: The easiest way to get to Sisters’ Islands is to join an island-hopping tour that will also bring you to St. John’s Island and Kusu Island.
Book ferry tickets to Sisters’ Islands.
6. St. John’s Island
Image credit: Spin The Day via Flickr
Once home to cholera patients, lepers, and other misfits, St. John’s Island was once a quarantine station for fellow ill-stricken immigrants from Mecca returning to Singapore. Thereafter, for better or for worse, the island became a rehabilitation centre for opium addicts.
Things to do: Feel free to take a dip around the island’s shores to spot colourful corals and various sea creatures. Or, for those not looking to get wet, picnic grounds and trekking routes are also available on the island where you can catch a view of the mainland’s skyline.
Staying overnight is made possible with chalets that include a kitchen from $21.40/pax per day in their Eagle’s Lodge.
Getting there: Take a round-trip ferry ride from Marina South Pier ($15).
7. Pulau Hantu
Image credit: Adventures From Five
Although Pulau Hantu literally means “ghost island” in Malay, there’s nothing supernatural about this island. In fact, its name refers to the middle part of the island that disappears under water during high tide.
Things to do: The island is popular with diving enthusiasts, as it’s much cheaper than heading to Tioman Island. On clear days, divers have been able to spot nudibranchs and sea slugs. It’s best to book a tour with a diving company, who’ll be able to bring you to the places with the best visibility.
Book a diving tour at Pulau Hantu.
Getting there: There are no public ferry charters to the island, but you can take a cruise around the Southern Islands, which will stop over at Pulau Bukom, Pulau Semakau, Raffles Lighthouse, and Pulau Hantu.
Book a cruise to the Southern Islands.
8. Sentosa Island
A favourite amongst both Singaporeans and tourists, Sentosa needs no introduction. It’s home to popular drinking holes like Tanjong Beach Club and Ola Beach Club. Not to mention attractions such as SkyHelix Sentosa and Universal Studios Singapore.
Quayside Isle in the evening.
Things to do: There’s a myriad of things to do in Sentosa. Give the Giant Swing at Skypark Sentosa a go, take a dip at Adventure Cove Waterpark or visit the marine life at S.E.A. Aquarium. Check out Quayside isle as well – a little expat colony that not many know about.
Adrenaline junkies, don’t miss out on AJ Hackett’s bungy jump!
Getting there: Hop on the Sentosa Express ($4) from VivoCity or walk in via the Sentosa Boardwalk for free. The most scenic route would be via the Sentosa Cable Car, which starts from Mount Faber Peak. The Cable Car Sky Pass (from $28) allows you unlimited rides to and from Mount Faber Peak.
Book tickets for Sentosa Cable Car.
9. Pulau Satumu
Images credit: @caleb44 via Instagram
The only towering feature that is visible from a distance on Pulau Satumu is the Raffles Lighthouse in shining white. The Lighthouse has been operational since 1855 to warn incoming ships at night when they are reaching the shore or shallow waters.
Things to do: The island has restricted access to the public but the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore organises guided tours on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month. Tickets are $58.85 each and are released on the 1st of every month, 8am. Visitors get a history lesson on the lighthouse and a walking tour of the rest of the island.
Buy tickets to Raffles Lighthouse Public Tours.
Getting there: Depart on a ferry from Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal when you sign up for a guided tour held annually organised by MPA.
10. Pulau Semakau
Pulau Semakau, or as it is more popularly known, Semakau Landfill, is Singapore’s first and only remaining offshore landfill site.
Things to do: I know, a landfill site is nothing worth visiting, but don’t exclude this just yet. The landfill activities here only occupy the eastern side of the island, keeping the rest of the island full of untouched flora and fauna. Perfect for the eco-adventurer, interested visitors can book a tour with NEA who conducts guided nature walks.
With rich mangrove habitats and a healthy coral population, the island has become a site for nature research with a coral nursery on the island.
Getting there: Pulau Semakau is open for educational tours by NEA currently, and to Singaporeans and PRs only. The tour is free but you’ll need at least 15 in a group to book one. You’ll also have to book your own ferry to transport your group over to the island. NEA has a list of ferry services, with prices ranging from $800-$1,000 per trip.
Book a tour to Pulau Semakau.
Visit Singapore’s islands
There you have it – 10 offshore islands you can explore without having to leave the country. Officially, Singapore has over 60 natural and manmade islands off the mainland, so this is really just a small portion of what’s available. Next time you’re looking for things to do in Singapore, consider a trip out to one of these islands.
For more nature adventures in Singapore:
- Nature reserves and parks in Singapore
- Hidden parks in Singapore
- Kranji Marshes guide
- Guide to Coney Island
- Changi Boardwalk
This post was brought to you by #SG50.
Original article published by Katherine Arteche on 18th January 2015. Last updated by Gracelyn Lim on 6th June 2023.
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