Amara Sanctuary Sentosa Review: A tranquil retreat that’s desperately in need of refurbishment
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
Amara Sanctuary Sentosa wasn’t the first choice I had in mind for a staycation, having had a bad experience staying there in the past.
I first visited way back when one of my friends had her 21st birthday there. I didn’t spend the night, but found the one-bedroom villa impressive enough ( though I thought it was strange that the bedroom and living area were situated on opposite sides of the pool).
About 5 years ago, I stayed the night at a deluxe room with some friends. The experience was truly dreadful, as the toilet’s flushing system wasn't working well and the bathroom reeked practically the entire night.
I decided to give it another chance last month whilst browsing hotel deals on Trip.com. I had SG ReDiscover vouchers to use up, and the couple suite with direct pool access cost around $398 (including taxes) after using my vouchers.
Not a cheap stay by any means, but this room type usually goes for around $600 a night so I thought it was worth snagging. Plus the pictures looked really enticing and luxurious (I have a thing for open-aired bathtubs).
Closer to the date, I did get slightly nervous after reading multiple negative reviews by past travellers on Booking.com and Google. Fortunately, none of them criticised the couple suite I chose, and mainly focused on maintenance issues in other room types and the hotel in general.
So were these negative reviews warranted? Here’s what I thought after my stay:
Amara Sanctuary Sentosa is pretty accessible if you don’t have a car. I took a Grab in, but the hotel also has a dedicated shuttle bus that picks you up from HarbourFront MRT. It comes every 15 to 30 minutes, from 6:30am to 8:15pm.
From the hotel’s lobby, there’s also the option to drop off at VivoCity or Resorts World Sentosa’s Casino. Do note that no pick-ups are available from these two locations.
You can also take Sentosa Buses A, B or C from the bus stop just outside the hotel. These travel to Resorts World and areas like Beach Station, Sentosa Cove and Siloso point.
We arrived at 3pm for check-in on a Saturday, which was a breeze. There were no queues and we were immediately tended to at the lobby. The usual safe-entry measures apply.
If you’re driving in, there’s complimentary parking for hotel guests. Other visitors to the hotel may park until 10:30pm free-of-charge. During our stay a few weeks ago, the resort permitted three visitors per room (so a total of 5 pax).
We waited about 15 minutes for our buggy service to the room, which was housed in the heritage building Larkhill Terrace. The buggy only takes two to four people at a time (including your luggage), hence the wait. Our driver was all smiles and really friendly though!
After a short ride, we arrived at our room. The colonial-style couple suites are designed terrace-house style, with a small gate and outside patio.
Unlike the negative reviews about other rooms being dirty, our room was pleasant and was cleaned well before our arrival.
The room does show signs of aging though, such as black discolouration marks on several areas of the floor.
Though not the most spacious, our room came with a luggage bench, work desk, iron & ironing board, two side tables, a wardrobe and several shelves with additional bottled water, an electronic safe, wine glasses and tea & coffee making facilities. Our room was missing bathrobes, but these were quickly sent over after a call to house-keeping.
Whilst the mini bar was rather minimal, all items were complimentary - such as Kit Kats, Oreo biscuits and two bottles each of orange juice and coke.
Don’t expect to connect to Netflix or Disney Plus on the TV, but you do get access to several cable channels like National Geographic. Wi-fi is fast and complimentary, without a password needed for login (bonus points for that) .
A corridor also led to the shower and bathroom on opposite sides. These were clean as well, though the shower floor does show signs of discolouration like the bedroom area.
I liked that the toilet and shower area were separated, so two people can use them at the same time. There were also several bottles of lavender body wash, shampoo and conditioner for our usage - more than enough for our one-night stay.
Of course, the main reason we booked the suite is for the outdoor daybed and bathtub area, which leads directly to the private pool for Larkhill Terrace guests. Yes - you can literally wake up in the morning and jump straight into the pool! The area wasn't completely white spotless like you see on the website pictures (it has a more rustic feel in my opinion) , but I was happy with what I got.
Our bathtub was clean and I liked the inclusion of a tray so you could put your soap, shampoo and your phone to watch videos while taking a bath.
My friends who stayed in the room next to ours weren't so lucky though. Their bathtub had some disturbing-looking reddish-brown stain and they were too afraid to use it.
There is a washing area with mirrors and sinks on both sinks, with amenities like more shampoo and conditioner, shower caps, toothpaste and toothbrush kits, shaving cream, tissue paper, cotton buds, a hairdryer and hand towels.
Unfortunately, it was raining the day we came, and because the daybed area isn’t well-sheltered it was soaked and pretty much unusable. It did dry up by morning though, so we got to enjoy having breakfast on it before we checked out. It has a firm feel and is comfortable enough to lie on, just don’t expect to sink into it luxuriously.
The daybed area leads to the private pool for suite guests. Outside, you’ll see a narrow common corridor where guests can walk up and down. This means other couple suite guests can look into your room if they’re swimming or walking about. Don’t worry, you can close and lock the sliding doors for privacy and security! Remember to do so at night!
The rectangular pool is great for a dip, with only a few other guests when we swam at 5pm. Technically, you have to book slots via the digital concierge app for all three of Amara’s pools, including this one.
We found this rather silly and didn’t bother, as this is a private-access pool for Larkhill Terrace guests and you can just jump in whenever you wish.
When swimming, I was a little grossed out to see algae forming at the sides of the pool. This was rather unsightly and the maintenance of the pool did come into question. I don’t think the pool is chlorinated too (at least I didn’t taste any), so I’m not exactly sure what cleaning agents are used!
We also took a trip to Amara's Sanctuary Block to check out its infinity Sky Pool. The block houses the hotel’s basic deluxe suites, with the pool on level 4. If you’re not staying in a Larkhill Terrace Suite, this pool will definitely keep you happy. The sea views are fantastic, and there’s also a separate Jacuzzi (albeit a rather tiny one). There were very few guests when we came in the morning around 11, so booking a slot shouldn't be too difficult.
We also walked over to check out the Dream Pool and Kids Pool, located opposite the villas and next to the Mice Centre. Unfortunately, the pool looked nowhere near the one pictured on the website.
It was undergoing cleaning, but still looked unwelcoming and poorly-maintained. The pictures don’t really show this, but the water looked slightly murky, and the lounge area was littered with leaves and had discoloured deck chairs. Thanks to COVID, the pool bar is no longer in operation as well.
And honestly, I wouldn’t want any child to wade into the multi-tiered kids pool. The water looked dirty and a little yellow-ish, and it's clear they put no effort into cleaning it thoroughly or making it look more appealing.
As we walked around the hotel grounds, we found several other parts to be ill-maintained as well. For example, a section filled with fallen leaves and cracked tiles. It's a pity because the resort does have a lot of potential with its spacious and beautiful grounds, including a nice nursery housing numerous plants and a glass pavilion for events. It’s badly in need of refurbishment, especially if it wants to live up to its five-star rating.
Thankfully, the gym and spa did fare better. The gym was quite large and spacious, with a small resting area and enough equipment to keep gym rats happy. There is also a separate space for private training, and discounted offers for personal and small-group training sessions.
Even though we didn't utilise the spa, the receptionist was kind enough to let us have a tour around. Prices are pretty standard for any hotel spa. I didn’t find the facilities that wow-worthy though.
They were pleasant enough, but the Away Spa at W Sentosa was more impressive with its hot pools, sauna and steam room. Here, the Jacuzzi tub just looks like it's housed in a large bathroom. There are quiet and conducive massage rooms, but they were nothing to shout about.
Breakfast and service
We chose to order room-service for breakfast the next morning, which came from Amara’s Shutters Restaurant.
You can order room-service through the hotel’s digital concierge.
Simply scan a QR code available on the room desk, and you’ll be directed to a “chatbot” service where you can order food, make housekeeping requests, report on room issues and find info on hotel facilities like opening hours, location and booking timings for the pools and gym.
As it is after all a chatbot, you still have to call them up for more complicated requests or detailed info like the prices for spa treatments( no, these aren't displayed online).
Ordering breakfast was a fairly straightforward affair through the digital concierge. Prices are all reflected on the online menu, and you can make your orders with a few simple clicks of the button.
Whilst the app mentioned that breakfast would arrive within 30 to 45 minutes, we got our breakfast in under 20 minutes. Housekeeping was quick in seeing to our request for bathrobes too, so kudos to the hotel for their efficient service when we stayed!
I understand that this is mainly for hygiene, but the fact that the food came in plastic coverings and wrapped in cling wrap made it resemble airplane food.
Quality-wise, breakfast was rather average. The fluffy pancake ($23) with berries, maple syrup and (watery) clotted cream was rather unfluffy and forgettable, unlike the ones I had at W Sentosa. The French Toast ($23) wasn’t as rich, eggy and flavourful as I would have liked it to be.
The Shutters Breakfast and Three-egg omelette (both $28) were underwhelming as well. Just look at that very black and burnt mushroom which no one dared to touch!
Considering how disappointing these dishes were, I would say you’re not missing out anything if you don’t get the full breakfast buffet (it’s around $40 plus I think). Maybe their Asian offerings would have fared better.
In general, I did enjoy my stay at Amara Sanctuary Sentosa - but that was because of the company and the design and amenities of the suite I chose. If you’re keen on booking a stay, I do recommend the couple suite with pool access for a quiet and ‘exclusive' getaway. Service was friendly and speedy too.
The grounds, however, are really in need of a facelift and the pools require further inspection and cleaning. Unless they do so, , I wouldn't consider this a “5-star” hotel worth splurging on.
You can check out my review of W Sentosa, a hotel that excelled all round and had delicious breakfast to boot!