Island hopping in Singapore made easy for you

St. John’s Island.
PHOTO: Instagram/prestigeeventrentals

These islands around Singapore are just a short trip away, and make for fun day trips.

If you are feeling bored stiff in Singapore, why not head to one of the many neighbouring islands and do some island hopping?

Here is all you need to know about each island, from how to get there to the fascinating facts of each island. Get your backpack ready for some island hopping adventures in Singapore.

1. St. John’s Island

Getting there: Take the Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services or Marina South Ferries at Marina South Pier.

Duration: 30 minutes by ferry.

Cost: $15 (adult) and $12 (kids 12 and under) per round trip.

Why Go: Home to mangroves, coastal plants and coral reefs, St. John’s Island is a nature fanatic’s dream. You can take guided walks of the island’s intertidal habitats conducted by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. That’s where you’ll get up close to its marine inhabitants like sea stars, sea cucumbers and crabs.

Good to know: St. John’s Island is linked to laid-back LazarusIsland by a little paved bridge – an easy walkaway. You can even walk to another picturesque island, Pulau Seringat, from here. Tip: Bring your own food and drinks, as there are no shops or restaurants on St. John’s.

Fascinating fact: The island was once a quarantine centre for immigrants coming into Singapore who had cholera, beriberi and leprosy. It was later used to house political prisoners and drug rehabilitees.

2. Lazarus Island

Getting there: Catch the ferry to St. John’s Island. Once you have reached the jetty, turn left, cross the link bridge, and walk a short 10 minutes to the island.

Duration: 40 minutes by ferry and on foot.

Cost: $15 (adult) and $12 (kids 12 and under) per round trip.

Why go: Forget about the Maldives! This hidden oasis with white, soft sandy beaches and crystal clear waters is way closer to SG. With what’s said to be one of Singapore’s last unspoilt beaches, Lazarus Island is ideal if you are eager to enjoy a relaxing hideaway far from the crowds. Take a therapeutic stroll on the sand and have a picnic at one of the many secluded, shaded spots around the beach.

Good to know: Like on St. John’s, pack your own food and drinks, as there are no shops or restaurants on Lazarus Island either.

Fascinating fact: There are countless stray cats all over the island, said to“greet” visitors when they reach its shores

3. Pulau Ubin

Getting there: Head to Changi Point Ferry Terminal and board a bumboat. Fees are paid directly to the driver and collected before the boat sets off.

Duration: 15 minutes.

Cost: $8 per round trip.

Why go: This island is a window to Singapore’s past. Stroll pass kampongs (villages), wooden houses and stray chickens on the island. Also, Chek Jawa Wetlands sits on the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin. (It’s the largest natural intertidal flat in northern SG and famous for its rich marine life.)

Good to know: The best way to get around the island is to rent a bicycle from any of the four shops at houses 18, 24, 25 and 45C (from$6 to $20; only 25 Pulau Ubin Bicycle Rental has a website). You can even book a kayaking tour where you can spend 4 to 6 hours paddling along the coast and entering the countless mangroves around the island.

Fascinating fact: The visitor centre at the entrance of Chek Jawa, fondly known as House No.1, is the last standing Tudor-style house with a working fireplace in Singapore.

4. Kusu Island

Getting there: Catch the Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services or Marina South Ferries at Marina South Pier.

Duration: 45 minutes by ferry.

Cost: $15 (adult) and $12 (kids 12 and under) per round trip.

Why go: There are three Malay shrines and a Chinese temple. The holy shrines commemorate a pious man and his family, while the latter is dedicated to the Chinese God of Prosperity and Goddess of Mercy. Look out for tortoises too!

Good to know: Pre-Covid, the annual Kusu Pilgrimage Season lasts a month from September to November, with thousands of people flocking to the island. Not a fan of crowds? You might want to avoid Kusu during that period. Tip: BYO food and drinks.

Fascinating fact: The history of this island is little sketchy, but most accounts involve a giant tortoise transforming itself into an island. (“Kusu” translates to “turtle” or“tortoise” in Hokkien.)

ALSO READ: Pulau Ubin, Coney Island and 5 other nearby Singapore islands where you don’t need a passport to visit

5. Sisters’ Islands

Getting there: Catch Marina South Ferries at MarinaSouth Pier (weekends) or hire a private charter boat from Marina South Pier or West Coast Pier (daily).

Duration: 40 minutes by ferry.

Cost: $15 (ferry) or $200 (private charter) per round trip.

Why go: These islands comprise Singapore’s first-ever Marine Park, which simply means: under-the-sea adventures! The smaller of the two, Small Sister’s Island, is closed to the public for conservation and research purposes, but you can visit Big Sister’sIsland, which is great for snorkelling! Expect to encounter beautiful coral reefs, clams and sea horses along the Dive Trail developed by National Parks Board.

Good to know: The Marine Park is home to Singapore’s first turtle hatchery.

Fascinating fact: Legend has it that a pair of sisters, Minah and Linah, drowned at sea during a storm and couldn’t be found. When the storm subsided, villagers were surprised to see two islands at the spot where the two sisters had drowned

6. Sentosa

Getting there: There are six ways to enter Sentosa:

  1. Enter from VivoCity via the boardwalk.Duration: 15 minutes. Cost: Free to $1.
  2. Board the public bus (#123) that passes through Queensway, Holland Road, Orchard Road and Havelock Road. Duration and Cost: varies.
  3. Board bus RWS8 from the bus stop in front of VivoCity. Duration: 20 minutes. Cost: $1.
  4. Hail a taxi, book a private hire car or drive in. Duration: varies. Cost: $2 to $6 entry fee.
  5. Catch the Sentosa Express (monorail) from the VivoCity terminal. Duration: 10 minutes.Cost: $4.
  6. Hop on a cable car ride from Harbourfront Station. Duration: 15 minutes. Cost: $29.75 (adult) and $21.25 (child) for unlimited rides.

(Note: If you are heading to Sentosa for a wedding or staycation, get your invitation ore-mail confirmation ready. For those taking the fourth option, present your invitation or confirmation e-mail for free entry. Those travelling by the fifth option, show the invitation or confirmation e-mail to the service staff at the VivoCity station for FOC entry.)

Why go: Introducing Singapore’s most well-known island: the mini, tropical Las Vegas, Sentosa! Take your pick of the three beaches here –Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong – each with their own charm. With attractions like the S.E.A. Aquarium and Resorts World Sentosa Casino plus plenty of fab F&B options, it’s custom-made for a fun-filled day or, even better, a staycation at the resorts dotting the island.

Good to know: Here’s a wallet-friendly tip: When entering Sentosa, take the boardwalk from VivoCity. Once you’re on the island, you can take the monorail around and back for free!

Fascinating fact: The roller coaster Battlestar Galactica at Universal Studios Singapore is the tallest duelling rollercoaster in the world

7. Coney Island Park

Getting there: Take bus 84 from Punggol Interchange to Punggol Point Park/Punggol Settlement. Walk along the Punggol Promenade Nature Walk to get to Coney Island Park West Entrance.

Duration: About 20 minutes.

Cost: Free – unless you choose to rent bicycles from Jomando Adventure & Recreations (on Coney Island) or GoCycling (at Punggol Jetty).

Why go: Bird nerds, this is the place for you! The island is the home to more than 80 species of birds. It houses a wide variety of habitats, including coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves and casuarina woodlands. You can even find some critically endangered flora and fauna here presumed to be extinct in the wild.

Good to know: Remember to use the toilets and water coolers at the entrance, as there are none once you enter the park.

Fascinating fact: The island was previously owned by the Aw brothers of Tiger Balm (and Haw Par Villa) and was called Haw Par Island.

8. Pulau Hantu

Getting there: There are no scheduled ferries that go here, so you’ll have to charter your own. You can do so with The Hantu Bloggers or by heading to West Coast Pier.

Duration: 30 minutes by boat. Cost: $300 to $400.

Why go: This is a favourite among fishing and snorkelling enthusiasts due to its sheltered beaches, swimming lagoons and inviting waters. The island boasts rich reefs and myriads of corals – you can even spot moray eels and clownfish! It’s also a great camping spot with amenities like toilets and fresh water. (Tip: Don’t forget to request for a permit to camp!)

Good to know: The island is, in fact, split into two: Hantu Kecil (small ghost) and Hantu Besar (big ghost). Hantu Besar is known to have more extensive reefs.

Fascinating fact: Pulau Hantu means “island of ghosts” in Malay. It was believed that ancient Malay warriors duelled to death here, leaving their ghosts to wander the island.

9. Even More Islands

There are other unique islands around Singapore, such as Pulau Semakau, Pulau Satumu and Sultan Shoal Island, but they are a little harder to get to, as they allow only a limited number of visitors per year. And because of Covid, ones like Pulau Semakau are currently closed.

ALSO READ: Unwinding in Ubin: Marooned in Singapore, locals flock to island for kampung vibes and nature trails

This article was first published in The Finder.