Hiking in Singapore? A friend of ours who grew up here referred to Singapore as a “concrete jungle” when we mentioned how much we liked it. And, the city IS busy with traffic, people and a lot of tall buildings. It’s surprisingly easy, however, to find tranquil outdoor spots for walking and hiking that rival many places in the world. Here are a few of our favorites.
Central Catchment Nature Reserve, MacRitchie Park & Tree Top Trail
Starting out at MacRitchie Park, this one is our favorite of all of these hikes and walks. It offers so much: a break from bustle of the city, well-maintained trails through a native forest, a suspension bridge hanging above the treetops, and of course, monkeys!
With over 20 kilometers of trails and boardwalks around the reserve and into the forest, the MacRitchie trails offer options from a mild stroll to serious hiking in Singapore. You start out with the option of trekking on the boardwalk adjacent to the reservoir, or heading directly into the forest on the trails. Either way is fine. The boardwalk meets up with the trail partially along the way. In fact, the meeting point is a favorite hangout of a band of macaques (monkeys), which you’ll undoubtedly see along the way.
The macaques are quite used to humans; perhaps, a little too comfortable with them. They’ll boldly approach walkers and hikers, looking for handouts. Of course, feeding the monkeys is not allowed, and carries some significant fines. You’re better off just watching them from afar and not approaching them at all. They are wild animals, after all.
You’ll find a lot of runners doing a full or partial loop of the trail. There are also some indications of how tough the trail can be, evidenced by a number of pieces of rubber and plastic that clearly had torn off of old sneakers.
The trail is well maintained, and informational plaques along the route offer information about the local flora and fauna, so you get to learn something as well. Follow the well-marked signs to the Tree Top Walk.
The highlight of the hike is the Tree Top Walk, a 250 meter long suspension bridge that gives you 360 degree views of the reserve. One note on the Tree Top Walk. If you think that you can just do a quick walk on the bridge and then head back, that’s not the case. It’s a one way loop. There are LOTS of stairs up and then down on the other side of the bridge. And there are plenty of signs reminding you of that. So commit to the whole hike up front.
Once visitors have looped back to the ranger’s station, they can retrace their steps back the way they came. Or, they can do a full loop skirting the Singapore Island Country Club. If they choose the second option, and haven’t had enough of stairs, they can make sure to stop at the Jelutong Tower. Climbing the stairs of the seven deck observation tower rewards hikers with some more spectacular views.
Getting there: The closest MRT station to the reservoir is Marymount, which is approximately 1 km away. From there, walk the 10 minutes to the park or take a bus (services 52, 74, 165, 852, 855) to get to the reservoir from Marymount MRT Station.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
If you’re looking for mountains to climb, hiking in Singapore won’t offer you much. It’s pretty flat. Within this reserve, however, you can find the tallest point in the country, Bukit Timah Hill, at 163 meters. The reserve is also home to one of the last remaining primary rainforests in the country, since it wasn’t cleared for logging purposes. You’ll likely run into some local residents, including monkeys and monitor lizards.
The Bukit Timah reserve is abuts the Catchment Reserve, so you can turn a medium hike into a long trek by covering both in the same day.
Getting there: Exit the Beauty World MRT Station, Exit A.
The Southern Ridges
The Southern Ridges are a ten kilometer long network of trails starting at HarbourFront MRT station. The walk takes from three to five hours. It will bring you through many parks and preserves, including Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill and HortPark before ending at Kent Ridge Park.
At the Telok Blangah Hill Park, long walkways offer a bird’s-eye view of the forest canopy. At the peak of Mount Faber Park you can get great views of the city skyline and even the Southern Islands.
Don’t miss the the Henderson Waves, a looping and curving construction that is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. The bridge is especially impressive in the evening, when it is illuminated by glowing lights.
Getting there: Get off the MRT the HarbourFront station
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Take a hike through the wetlands and you’re likely to run into some of the local residents, (like the sleepy otter above). The mangroves and mudflats provide a home to mudskippers, crabs, shellfish, water snakes, birds, spiders, monitor lizards and otters.
You’ll also run across a variety of native bird species including kingfishers, herons and sunbirds. The new Visitor Center provides plenty of information and trail maps to help you explore.
The boardwalk next to the mangrove swamps is 500 meters long, and provides a closeup look at mud lobsters, tree-climbing crabs and monitor lizards. The reserve includes a Migratory Bird Trail so you can check out our feathered friends along your walk. If you’re a bird watcher, take advantage of the hides and platforms to observe migratory birds including the Common Redshank and Pacific Golden Plover.
From the 18-meter-tall Aerie Tower, take advantage of sweeping views of the wetlands. And if you want an even more personalized experience, stop by on a Saturday at 9.30am to hear about the wildlife from certified nature guides during the free guided walks.
Getting there: Board SMRT Bus 925 from Kranji MRT Station. Get off at Kranji Reservoir Carpark B, and cross the road to the Visitor Center.
Singapore Botanical Park
The Singapore Botanical Park provides a more orderly hike through its expansive collection of local and exotic plants. The park also holds the honor of being the only tropical garden to be named as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. S
trolling through 160 year old park you can just breathe in lovely scents, or delve into the parks history. The garden was originally acted in part as a research facility, where scientists in the 19th century perfected methods of extracting rubber from plants. The growth of the rubber industry resulted in Malaysia (which Singapore was previously a part) to be a global leader in latex production.
Another plus is that the botanical park is free. Entrance to the orchid forest inside the park does carry a modest fee ($5). And that fee is well worth it.
Singapore is one of the leading orchid producers in the world. The orchid forest exhibits many of the hybrids that are unique to this country. The forest displays over 1200 species of orchids, with many more hybrids, many of them unique to this country.
Getting there: Exit at the Botanic Garden MRT on Downtown line.
Ok, I’ll admit it – this isn’t really a hike, but a visit to the zoo. That said, the Singapore Zoo is actually four separate parks that offer educational entertainment and wildlife viewing. Each park (Singapore Zoo, The Night Safari, The River Safari, and the Jurong Bird Park) has its own theme and sights. At 28 hectares (69 acres), there is plenty of walking to be done.
The zoo is located right on the the waters of Upper Seletar Reservoir, and views of the reservoir and surrounding preserve giving it a sense of natural, unrestricted space.
Getting There: Get off at the Ang Mo Kio MRT Station (NS16) and then take Bus 138
Changi Coastal Walk
Despite being an island, Singapore isn’t generally thought of for its beaches. That said, there are plenty of places to enjoy a water view in Singapore.
The Changi Coastal Walk on the west side of Changi Point allows you enjoy the coast and water views that you don’t see within the city center. Stroll along a well-maintained boardwalk and enjoy the views of the water, as well as local flora and fauna.
At 2.6 kilometers, the coastal walk isn’t a major workout, but there’s plenty to see along the way. Each of the six sections of the boardwalk are named after the views they highlight: Creek Walk, Beach Walk, Sailing Point Walk, Cliff Walk, Kelong Walk and Sunset Walk. And of course, you can hit up the hawker centre (food court) at Changi Point for some laksa (curry noodle soup) or sate (grilled meat skewers).
Getting to the Chiangi Coastal Walk: No nearby MRT stations, take bus route 109, 59, or Village Hotels Airport Shuttle.
Gardens by the Bay
One iconic picture of Singapore is the grove of “SuperTrees” in the spectacular Gardens by the Bay. These huge, futuristic-looking structures are lit up in various colors at night, and well-worth an evening stroll. The park itself spans 101 hectares (250 acres) of reclaimed land adjacent to the Marina Reservoir, and is easily accessible from the city center.
The expense of construction is a bit controversial among local Singaporeans – with a price tag of over $1 billion dollars, many wondered if the price was too high for a park. The results, however, speak for themselves.
The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden.
While the majority of the Gardens by the Bay is free to enter and explore, there are a few indoor conservatories (the misty Cloud Forest and the colorful Flower Dome) that charge admission. You can also take an elevator to the top of the SuperTrees and stroll along the OCBC Skyway connecting a few trees. This walkway provides panoramic views of the Singapore skyline and the bay.
Getting there: Take Exit B at the Bayfront MRT Station and follow the underground tunnel. Exit and enter the Gardens by crossing the Dragonfly Bridge or Meadow Bridge.
For a modern and bustling city-state, Singapore has preserved and restored quite a bit of open space. This was a really pleasant surprise for us. We came expecting modern architecture and world-class cuisine, and we weren’t disappointed in that regard. The opportunities for for walking, trekking or hiking in Singapore helped to cement this place as one of our favorite destination.