Singapore’s Sentosa Cove is rallying for a resurgence

Sentosa Island, Singapore’s waterfront playground where owners park yachts outside the front doors, turns 50 this year. Formerly known as Pulau Belakang MatiThe nearly two-square-mile island sits at the southern end of mainland Singapore, just minutes away by cable car, car, public transport, bicycle, moving walkway or garden-themed walk.

Singapore’s government has infused Sentosa (“peace and tranquility”) with more than $1 billion in development since unveiling a master plan in 1972. Today, the lush island is awash with entertainment delights – marinas, mint beaches, golf courses and spas at Resorts World Singapore with its casino, water park, Universal Studios Singapore and the SEA (South East Asia) Aquarium, one of the largest in the world.

Some call Sentosa the “Monte Carlo of Asia”.

Thirty years ago, given the scarcity of land in Singapore, it made sense to reclaim land on the eastern end of the island and open up five more islands. Islands within an island? Welcome to Sentosa Cove, the webbed enclave of bungalows, villas and condos on Sentosa Island that was first conceptualized in 1992.

The marina residential community of approximately 2,100 homes (approximately 16% are landed properties, the remainder are condos) is now fully developed; the first residence was built in 2006. About 6,000 people call the nearly 300-acre gated community rumah (“home” in Malay, one of four commonly used languages ​​in Singapore which includes Mandarin, Tamil and English).

Sentosa Cove is the only place in Singapore, favored for its political stability, high GDP and low unemployment rate, where non-permanent residents can purchase landed property (with a 99-year lease).

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Bentleys, Porsches, Jaguars – you’ll find them on Ocean Drive, one of Cove’s main thoroughfares lined with condo buildings and tropical homes lining the Singapore Strait. Bikes also predominate but don’t bother locking them up. Sentosa Island and its residential area enjoys the same clean and super safe stature as mainland Singapore.

The Cove appears to be making a comeback after a pre-pandemic downturn. Sales for 2021 were $610 million, up 72% from 2020, but still below Cove’s peak performance from 2010 to 2012, when a superior beachfront bungalow was priced at $3,214 dollars per square foot. Currently, remodeled bungalows fetch just over $2,000 per square foot.

The Greater Southern Waterfront, the 30 km redevelopment of the mainland coast and Sentosa Island, reinforces the resurgence. Housing, offices, natural parks, green belts and beaches are planned. Nearing completion is the whimsical Sentosa Sensoryscape walkway, worth S$90 million, an “experiential sensory public park” that includes sculptures and water features. The bond is part of an additional boost, the Sentosa-Brani Master Plan.

About 60% of Sentosa Cove buyers are foreigners, and those from Asian countries predominate. Taiwanese billionaire Hsu Chen recently flipped the “Copper House” for a payout of over $11 million after just two years of ownership (albeit less tax). In 1992, Chen co-founded Hsu Fu Chi, which manufactures confectionery products.

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Other billionaires favor quirky house designs, including Cove oddities like a pirate-themed house and an Egypt-themed house, the latter apparently owned by a Singaporean (a kitschy front door flanked by statues of Anubis with glowing red eyes). Villa Mistral, nicknamed the “Yacht House”, mimics the fearless contours of a luxury ocean-slicing super yacht.

“Groups of foreigners buy property in Sentosa – their family and friends are here, so they tend to congregate and build small communities in Sentosa,” says Sammi Lim, founder and executive director of Brilliance Capital. “Once you’re home, you don’t really want to go out.”

The W Singapore and Residences divide Sentosa Cove from north to south with ONE°15 Marina and the 40,000-square-foot Quayside Island (not another island, but an airy shopping and dining complex). The north cove has three islands and the south has two. The houses on the five islands can accommodate yachts.

Each island has a distinct architecture, which cannot be changed in terms of waterfront views and aesthetics.

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In the northern cove, Coral Island is grouped with Treasure and Paradise Islands; Ocean Drive loops around the cluster. Coral Island is lined with 21 waterfront villas and bungalows, all with infinity pools. Developed by Hobee Land, the architecture “isn’t fancy, but more conventional in a way,” says Lim. “But Coral Island benefits from a bit more privacy, fairly large frontages and more generous parking.”

Also developed by Hobee Land, Paradise Island has 29 two-story villas done in a more distinctive tropical style. And Treasure Island has 19 two-story villas.

South Cove is home to Sandy and Pearl Islands, both lined with iconic homes of stunning architecture. Sandy Island’s 18 villas are striking stone monoliths with two-story glass walls on the viewing sides. Designed by Italian architect Claudio Silvestrin, they look like chic island temples in the middle of a rainforest.

While these islands exist on the main island of Sentosa, Pearl Island takes this concept one step further, setting each of the 19 bungalows over shallow reflecting pools: “an island within an island,” according to marketing materials.

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Further north, Lim has a seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom listing along Lakeshore View Drive, a cluster of 29 homes with views of Serapong Lake and the Serapong Golf Course, as well as the coast. “And when there are fireworks on the mainland, homeowners can enjoy that as well,” Lim says.

The three-story, 8,762-square-foot home includes a basement fitness studio and assistant quarters.

At the opposite end of Sentosa Cove, just below Sandy and Pearl Islands, Lim also favors Cove Grove, a grouping of a dozen houses, all with stunning sea views.

Sentosa Grove’s smallest homes are 5,000-square-foot, 3-story terraced homes located along Ocean Drive “just before it turns into Coral Island,” says Lim, who has racked up more than $7 billion. Singaporeans in transactions during his 18-year career.

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Ocean Drive has some of the largest properties in the Cove with lots ranging from 18,000 to 20,000 square feet (up to 40,000 square feet of living space). “There are less than 10 bungalows of this size in Sentosa,” says Lim. This includes Taiwanese billionaire Chen Hsu’s “Copper House”, which he sold in 2021.

Sentosa Island is a 30-minute drive from Changi Airport. Some of the continent’s primary, secondary and post-secondary schools are even closer.


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Brilliance Capital is an exclusive member of Forbes Global Propertiesa consumer marketplace and member network of elite brokerages selling the most luxurious homes in the world.

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