These destinations might not technically be in Singapore, but if you’re heading to the Little Red Dot, there are easy beach holidays to be had beyond Sentosa that don’t require an onward plane journey. (Although if you are looking to stay in the Lion City, Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa has an impressive kids’ club.) If you want a dual-centre break that won’t cause travel headaches, Sassy Mama contributor Suitcases and Strollers brings you a few easy ways to soak up the waves and the salt water.
Batu Batu, Malaysia
The latest chic resort catering to Singaporean weekenders boasts a sea view from every villa. There are seven beaches and snorkeling is ideal for kids. They offer bottle sterilisers, baby purees, children’s DVDs – everything to entice the young family. The restaurant is also divine.
Perhaps the one major downside is that you need to be wary of crawling infants and toddlers around the large balconies. Our tip is that it’s worth taking a stroller. Much of the resort is surrounded by a boardwalk, so it’s probably safer to keep small kids strapped in when using those access ways.
There is the additional hassle of having to drive 3 hours from Singapore to Malaysia, park the car at Mersing and then catch the 20 minute speedboat, but at what price paradise?
Before there was Batu Batu there was Nikoi. Another beautifully kitted out resort, Nikoi prides itself on modernising traditional Indonesian architecture and integrating with its landscape. Which means sometimes there are turtles that lay eggs on the beaches and those are pristine. (In fact, the ecology is impressive – the island boasts a mangrove area and plenty of water activities for older kids.)
The flip side is there is no air conditioning or televisions in the rooms. Even internet is only intermittent. The dining room also consists of one giant communal table made out of driftwood – which looks stunning but does mean you are eating with strangers. Still, this rustic chic is exactly what makes Nikoi so charming – like a luxury Robinson Crusoe getaway.
It is a bit of a commute to get there. After taking the ferry from Singapore to Bintan, it is a windy 45 minute drive around to the other side of the island plus another short ferry trip. Take travel sickness tablets for kids with sensitive tummies.
Bintan boasts several family-friendly resorts so it’s really a matter of taking your pick.
Prices at Club Med, which has the holy grail in their famed kids’ club, are extremely seasonal – keep an eye out as it can range from quite reasonable to exorbitant.
Nirwana Gardens is better year-round value. It’s not glamorous, but it also has a kids’ club as well as several family-friendly forms of entertainment including an elephant ride, flying fox, horse riding, paintballing and bowling. While the beach is not stunning, the tradeoff is the commute from Singapore is one straightforward ferry ride. If you are checking in with young toddlers, request a room close to the pool as the large resort can be quite a distance to walk.
Pulai Desaru Beach Resort & Spa, Malaysia
This is by far the easiest beach to get to via car from Singapore. If you negotiate the Malaysian border crossing carefully (early morning is best, particularly on long weekends) the commute can be under 2 hours.
The drive is very straightforward which means you can literally fill your hire car up without worrying about weight or luggage restrictions. (Although there is a shop if you forget something vital.)
The beach is very child-friendly – the waves are small, it’s quite clean and it’s not a great distance between the start of the beach and the water. The pool also caters to all ages with a lap pool section, toddler pool and waterslide. There are also plenty of indoor kids’ activities for rainy days.
The major downside is the service. When it plays host to functions, any pool-facing rooms are subject to some very noisy partying until midnight. Housekeeping during your stay is basic, at best, and there are only 2 unmemorable restaurants to choose from. But if you’re desperate for some salt water, these may be small inconveniences.
Rawa Island Resort, Malaysia
Rawa is rustic. So if you are fastidious about something stylish and chic or you must have modern creature comforts, this is not the place for you. There are no televisions in the room, no bathtubs in which to soak and unreliable internet access. For those reasons, if you are very fussy, it may not be somewhere to take newborns.
But the huge plus is the glorious beach. It’s a good thing the beach is so gorgeous because most of the activities are based around it from snorkeling to kayaking to volleyball – plus the two brilliant waterslides from the pier. There is very little else at the resort – no swimming pool, one small shop and only one restaurant (although there are always several options available on the buffet. And yes, every meal is a buffet). Thus Rawa may not be your first choice during the rainy season.
The commute requires a drive plus an under-hour boat ride with secure parking at the Mersing Ferry Terminal.
Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort, Malaysia
Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. This hidden gem is an ideal family holiday destination. The beach is beautiful and clean with moderate waves that can be body surfed. There are 3 pools including the bar pool right next to the toddler pool for pleasurable child supervision. The two restaurants are of a high standard and with large enough menus that there’s no need to leave the resort (although there is practically every type of fast food chain next door). There is also a retail store on the premises.
The catch? On a good day it is a solid 7-hour drive from Singapore, making this potentially a better bet for a dual-centre break from Kuala Lumpur. For those looking for a road trip, this could be a pleasurable experience, especially if done outside peak time. But if you have children who don’t travel well in the car, there is potential for problems before you even reach your destination.
It is not safe to drink the water from the tap in Indonesia or Malaysia. Only use bottled water for drinking and be wary of children drinking water in the shower or the bath.