SINGAPORE - So many staycays, so little time. What makes this hotel special?
Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa bagged the Architectural Heritage Awards in 2007 for conserving colonial soldiers' quarters and turning them into luxury suites set amid 3.8ha of rainforest and gardens.
Seekers of self-care will appreciate the resort's wellness options, including a well-equipped gym run by Aileron Wellness and four pools. Loads of #fitspo (fitness inspiration) photo opportunities abound.
Staggered check-ins mean I can register only at 3pm. With four other groups milling around in the lobby, staff are kept busy. It takes a while to get the paperwork done - I feel reassured when I see that the reception staff wear gloves - and arrive at my one-bedroom pool villa via buggy.
Unlike the heritage buildings on-site, my villa sports a contemporary design. The 2.32m by 2.27m private pool is flanked by two spacious pavilions - one houses a king-size bed and the other, a living room.
Beyond the bathroom sits an outdoor tub made for two. There is also an outdoor dining table for four.
Please tell us there is a spa.
But of course. I book a 60-minute Swedish massage at Spa Luna in the morning before check-in. The staff are friendly and my tight muscles melt under therapist Shan Shan's skilful strokes.
The pandemic reality check: I am confused to find a disposable bowl with cling wrap at the lounge after my massage. It looks like takeaway from a foodcourt, but is actually the spa's housemade red bean soup.
What else is there to do?
Settling into the room takes longer than expected because I have to book my breakfast (to be served in the villa) as well as time slots for the facilities. I abandon plans to swim and drive for five minutes to Sentosa Cove for a 6pm dinner to avoid the crowds.
Strolling along the boardwalk afterwards transports me to my last holiday in Auckland, when my family dined harbourside and gawked at multi-million-dollar yachts.
Why sleep in when you can get an early start to the day, right?
Palawan Beach is a couple of minutes away by foot - perfect for a morning run or saltwater swim before the picnickers arrive.
I am thrilled when an unexpected entourage of four peacocks follows me back from my 7am walk.
The rustic DreamPool is empty at 8am, so I do my laps in peace and play with the giant unicorn float without anyone judging me (up to five people can book the use of the pools for each two-hour slot).
The SkyPool, which boasts gorgeous sea views from the rooftop of the hotel's four-storey block, is undisturbed at noon and the gym has only one person in it. Pity I have to check out in an hour.
Things that made you go "om"?
Meditating in the private plunge pool after dinner. The water is warm enough to be inviting and cool enough to take the edge off the hot afternoon. With the stars above me and cicadas singing their evening lullabies, I close my eyes and imagine I am back in the Maldives. All is good.
Verdict: Bliss or miss?
While the resort is starting to show its age, I treasure its serenity - besides the check-in crowd, I hardly bump into big groups during my stay.
Service is efficient, but could be warmer, especially at the reception. A care pack with hand sanitiser and masks would have been a nice touch too.
If you can get a good deal, go for the villas or Larkhill Terrace suites - the suites have exclusive access to a lovely 44m-long pool.
To truly relax and make use of all the wellness facilities, I recommend booking at least two nights.
This hotel is ideal for a romantic escape and families with kids of pre-school age and older too.
Visit the two remaining World War II air-raid shelters on Sentosa within the grounds, which are part of the hotel's heritage trail. Both are well-ventilated and make ideal places to reflect on everything you are grateful for.
AMARA SANCTUARY RESORT SENTOSA
WHERE: 1 Larkhill Road, Sentosa
RATES: Various deals and room types available, including those for families and those with fur kids. Rates for a one-bedroom pool villa start at $700++ (room only), while its Rest and Relax Package starts at $510++ and has activities such as a guided heritage trail.
- This staycation was hosted by Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa. This is the second instalment of a weekly staycation series.