Perched on the threshold of one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities, Capella Singapore hotel is a laid-back tropical escape just a stone's throw from the city, on idyllic Sentosa Island. A refreshing change from the island's typical ostentation, this understated retreat blends colonial charm with modern luxury in rooms overlooking the South China Sea. The grounds include 30 acres of manicured lawns where peacocks roam and old trees provide shade, with the award-winning Auriga Spa on the premises and a family-friendly beach nearby.
A total of 112, including 11 suites, 38 villas and two colonial manors.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. There are some smoking rooms and designated smoking zones.
Double rooms from $375.40 (SG$511), excluding tax at 17.7 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (SG$48), unless you're in a One-bedroom Palawan Villa or Colonial Manor (which include breakfast at the Knolls). All rates include personal assistant service, in-room soft drinks, newspapers and priority Sentosa Golf Club bookings.
Capella has a programme of various bookable activities running throughout the week. Here’s a small sample: on Tuesdays, there’s cocktail making at Bob’s bar, where you’re learn how to craft a signature Capella tipple as well as getting to create your own; on Saturdays, unleash your creative potential in one of the family canvas painting sessions on the lawns; on Sunday afternoons, there’s a tour of all the specially commissioned artworks around the resort. Please note: parties are not allowed.
At the hotel
Spa, pool, 24-hour fitness centre, library of books, DVDs, board games and magazines (with free daily refreshments and snacks), business centre, tennis court, sculpture garden, free, high-speed WiFi throughout, laundry (guests get five free pieces pressed per stay). In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, Bose sound system, iPod dock, Nespresso coffee machine, minibar with free soft drinks, juices and bottled water. Bathrooms are stocked with Aesop products.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms have an urban vibe: smart and fuss-free, in soothing earth tones, devised by Indonesian designer Jaya Ibrahim. Constellation rooms have capacious patios and outdoor Jacuzzis (Rooms 517 and 510 offer sea views). For a sumptuous home away from home, opt for a stately, three-bedroom Colonial Manor, which comes with a raft of extra privileges, including arriving and departing in style in a Rolls-Royce (Contemporary Manor guests also get the swish transfers).
The three tree-shaded, lounger-lined swimming pools come with South China Sea views. All villas have private plunge pools; manors have their own lap pools.
Despite the air of elegance, flats are a sensible option if you plan to explore the large estate the old-fashioned way. There are several nature trails on Sentosa and a pedestrian path along the coast is a great running track, so pack trainers.
Colonial Manor guests enjoy Rolls-Royce transfers, breakfast for six, a personal butler, groceries, laundry service, SG$500 food and drink credit a day, a 60-minute daily Auriga spa treatment for two and four hours in a luxe chauffeur-driven car a stay.
Although they are welcome, this chilled resort is better suited to adults and older, low-maintenance children.
Although they are welcome, this chilled resort is better suited to adults and older, low-maintenance children.
Low-maintenance, well-behaved older children.
Some rooms – the one-bedroom Sentosa suites and neighbouring Premier rooms – can be connected. The larger villas and manors are perfect for accommodating extra family members, and they all have private pools of differing dimensions.
Sentosa Island has a host of family-friendly attractions, including Underwater World and Dolphin Lagoon, the Sentosa Luge and Universal Studios.
There’s a wading pool but no lifeguard on duty. BYO floats, arm bands and water toys.
High chairs are available at the Knolls and Cassia, as is a kids’ menu. Expect oatmeal with maple syrup and French toast fingers for breakfast, and chicken noodle soup, hamburgers and grilled chicken breast with potato and veg throughout the rest of the day.
S$25 an hour for a minimum of four hours, and an additional S$40 transportation fee. Book in advance.
No need to pack
You’ll need to bring virtually everything if you have a baby.
In all cases, the best tables are about the view: at Bob’s, if weather permits, go alfresco; at the Knolls, request a table on the terrace or by the window; at Cassia, you want the veranda.
Something silk or Asian-inspired for Cassia; linen casuals elsewhere.
Cassia is a chic fine-dining Chinese restaurant in shades of black, beige and ivory. It serves Cantonese and fusion dishes, such as barbecued boneless duckling with sliced mango and lemon sauce. All-day diner the Knolls offers an East meets West menu. The tea bar, stocked with more than 30 varieties, is a great spot to linger after meals. A wine-matched gourmet dinner can be arranged by the pool, on the beach or in your room.
Smart and air-conditioned inside, dotted with day-beds alfresco, Bob’s Bar serves the usual suspects, along with regionally inspired cocktails such as the Kaffir Lime Mule and Kumquat Sidecar. They also make their own ginger beer.
Available 24 hours, with a reduced menu after 11pm.
Beachy Sentosa Island in the south of Singapore is connected to the mainland by both a cable car and a bridge that’s passable to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The island has plenty of attractions, including Universal Studios and Palawan Beach
Changi International Airport (www.changiairport.com), 25 minutes’ drive from the hotel, is one of Asia's major transport hubs with flights arriving from all over the world. The resort can arrange a transfer in style with Capella’s Rolls-Royce Phantom available for S$550 one way.
You don't need a car here, it's easy to rely on Singapore's excellent public transport.
If you're coming by mega-yacht, cast anchor at One°15 Marina Club (www.one15marina.com), just three minutes’ away from the hotel by car. Staff will come and pick you up.
Worth getting out of bed for
Beyond Capella's gorgeous spa, pool and art-dotted grounds, you'll find a host of attractions on Sentosa Island, from nearby Palawan Beach to day spas, bars and family-friendly theme parks. Guests also enjoy priority booking at Sentosa Golf Club, with its two 18-hole championship courses. The hotel team can organise everything from signature yachting cruises to cycling excursions, gourmet experiences and shopping, nature or cultural tours.
Further afield, Pulau Ubin, an island in north-east Singapore, is the antithesis of Sentosa: it’s not manicured to death, has no themed attractions and you explore the charming island on foot, by bicycle or in rickety taxis and vans. This fast-disappearing, rural Singapore with a stuck-in-time feel is only accessible by equally rustic bumboats (from the Changi Village ferry terminal). Explore the wildlife-rich Chek Jawa Wetlands while you're there – boardwalks meander around the mangroves, although they’re only accessible at low tide. One caveat: the heat and humidity will turn walking into a strenuous activity, so start your day trip early.
If you fancy a more urbane excursion, begin with an early-morning spin around a wet market – the ones in the Chinatown Complex and Little India’s Tekka Centre are both eye-opening insights into local life – followed by kaya toast and coffee in a kopi tiam (coffee shop). Then spend the rest of the day shopping along Orchard Road or at the Funan Digital Life Mall, interspersed with regular meals, to experience how Singaporeans spend their leisure time.
They’re completely irresistible, so it’s worth getting up early and heading to the Singapore Zoological Gardens for the Jungle Breakfast with the orangutans. Capella Singapore also runs a shuttle between the hotel and Universal Studios.
The owner of Il Lido (+65 6866 1977; 27 Bukit Manis Road) at Sentosa Golf Club is a fan of Philippe Starck and Flos, so he fills his sea-facing, sunlit dining room with iconic European design. The extensive Italian menu features dishes such as wagyu beef cheek and veal ravioli.
No, you’re not in Ibiza, but you may feel you are at Mambo Beach Club (+65 6276 6270; 40 Siloso Beach Walk) on Siloso Beach – a hip, daytime hangout, where the beautiful laze on sunloungers and a DJ plays from noon till dusk on weekends. Tanjong Beach Club (120 Tanjong Beach Walk) takes it name from its Sentosa strip of sand, and has a great daytime menu and cocktail list.
This is the kind of entrance that deserves to be accompanied by the strains of the legendary James Bond theme. Driving up to the neo-colonial-meets-futuristic digs that are the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, Mrs Smith and I feel like we’ve left Singapore behind and stumbled onto the set of some dark, devious but deliciously decadent spy thriller. I half expect to be handed a dirty martini upon stepping out of the car. Of course, if we were in a Bond film, this fabulous place would undoubtedly be the lavishly decked-out hideaway of the movie’s villain, most likely some Eurasian drug lord or terrorist with a penchant for contemporary art. Which would mean that, instead of a weekend of pampering, Mrs Smith and I would be bound into some ridiculous Rube Goldberg–designed death trap while said baddie lectures us about his plans for world domination. Thank heavens for real life then. Because the missus and I are very much looking forward to relaxing in what is Singapore’s only true luxury resort.
Designed by Sir Norman Foster, Capella Singapore is nothing if not dramatic. The reception area – housing the lobby, library and Chinese restaurant and leading to the ballroom – is in a lovingly restored colonial mansion dating back to the 1880s. Behind this iconic building is an ultra-modern, steel-clad structure that resembles something out of Gattaca – you know, the ‘Jude Law when he still had hair and was a hottie’ movie, as Mrs Smith describes it. It hangs over a gorgeous array of swimming pools and, just past the beach, the South China Sea. This sleek sci-fi-style space contains the hotel’s guest rooms (the swanky villas are spread throughout the estate), all offering a sensational view of the ocean.
Mrs Smith and I check into our large, comfortable and very well equipped Premier Sea View room. Decked out by modern-tropical interiors whiz Jaya Ibrahim, it is tasteful and minimal, with a neutral colour palette and a nice use of natural materials, namely wood and marble. After plugging in our iPod, unpacking and playing with the remote-control panel that adjusts the room’s lighting to one of four different moods, we get down to some serious decisions: where to eat and what spa treatments to book.
Chinese food or a more diverse, casual menu? Capella has two restaurants: Cassia offers modern Chinese cuisine, while the Knolls is your typical hotel coffee shop, albeit more nicely decorated than others we’ve seen. The Knolls menu offers a range of Western, Asian and classic Singaporean dishes. Prices are a little high. I know you expect to pay a premium in any fancy resort, but it’s hard to justify shelling out more than 10 times what the same dish would cost in any one of a hundred hawker centres or coffee shops around town. With that in mind, Mrs Smith and I decide to breakfast at the Knolls the following day and dine instead at Cassia.
Cassia (pronounced ‘kay-sha’) is a beautiful space. Andre Fu, one of Asia’s hottest young designers, has created a truly glam, sexy restaurant. Mrs Smith and I love the half-moon banquettes and opt to sit side by side. The menu takes a bit of getting used to. This is Chinese food presented through a very Western filter, with dishes organised by starters, mains, starches and desserts. Every item is priced per person as well, which leads to a debate about whether sharing – the norm during a Chinese meal – is even allowed. Once we figure it out though, we are thrilled by the food, which is inventive and flavourful. I especially enjoy my final starch, a young coconut stuffed with seafood fried rice and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. Yum! Dinner was followed by a well-made Hendrick’s Gin martini at Bob’s Bar, sipped outside to enjoy the evening breeze.
Who would have thought that tea could get someone so excited? While breakfast at the Knolls is simple, Mrs Smith spends quite a bit of time chatting with the staff about the fabulous range of teas available. Capella has worked with a Singaporean brand, Gryphon Tea Company, to offer a nicely curated list of more than 30 premium Chinese, English, Indian and Japanese blends. Mrs Smith particularly likes the smart, well-written guide to the teas – I have to stop her from pinching it – and, over the weekend, samples several of the beautiful and quite rare Chinese offerings.
It’s tempting to never, ever leave Auriga Spa. Both of us agree it is definitely the most well designed and beautiful part of the resort – Zen-like, mystical, embracing, calming. And that’s before we even start our treatments. Mrs Smith disappears into the women’s wing, only to emerge some four hours later raving about her massage, the vibrating beds in the lounging room and the scented showers. That’s right. The showers in the women’s wing each have a distinct aroma. She also loves the steam room which, when combined with the ice fountain and vitality pool, explains why I don’t see her for half the day.
In the meantime, I have retired to our room, popped in a DVD from the hotel library and wolfed down a club sandwich. So when Mrs Smith finally reappears, fully rested, energised and eager to frolic, this sad sack of a husband burps and holds her off until his lunch has fully digested. Because there are things other than swimming that one shouldn’t do on a full stomach.
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