The excitement among us was palpable. After a previously rained off trip to Pulau Ubin, three friends and I were at Changi point Ferry Terminal armed with both sunscreen and umbrellas. We were ready to go.
It seemed a bit ridiculous to be excited about getting on a boat for five minutes but if COVID has taught me anything, it’s that everything has changed. The world is different now and the travel addict in me was beside myself as we prepared to leave the main island of Singapore for the first time in more than six months.
About Pulau Ubin
Pulau Ubin literally translates as Granite Island in Malay and is one of 63 islands that make up Singapore. Singapore is also known as Pulau Ujong, and is the main island, but there are plenty of other islands to visit besides Singapore. As with many of the islands that make up Singapore, a legend surrounds the creation of Pulau Ubin. According to the legend, Pulau Ubin was formed when a frog, a pig, and an elephant decided to race each other to the shores of Johor. The agreement was that whoever failed would turn to stone. None of the animals succeeded in the challenge and so the elephant and pig became Pulau Ubin whilst the frog became Pulau Sekudu (which translates as Frog Island).
What to do on Pulau Ubin
The main reason people go to Pulau Ubin is to walk around or to cycle however, there are many things to do and see while you are there. Be sure to check it all out where you are there!
Hiking and walking
Hiking and walking is one of the most popular activities on Pulau Ubin. There are many walking trails to take you around the island including Bukit Puaka, Butterfly Hill, Sensory Trail, Climb Jejawi Tower, Ubin Fruit Orchard and, the Tree Trail.
You can also bike on almost all of the roads and paths on Pulau Ubin. The boardwalks are the only areas where you must dismount and leave your bike to walk. Some of the hills can be a bit steep so hard on the knees on the way up and a bit nail-biting on the way down! For a good adrenaline rush head to Ketam Bike Park.
For a different perspective of the island, hire a kayak, and go exploring among the mangroves. Alternatively, if fishing is your thing, we saw quite a few fishermen on our way round. Note that fishing in the quarries is not allowed.
Visit abandoned quarries
Whether you are walking or biking, the Pulau Ubin quarries in the middle of the island are beautiful to look at and there are so many of them! Ketam Quarry, Pekan Quarry, Kekek Quarry, Ubin Quarry and, Balai Quarry are all visible from the pathways and roads.
Look for wildlife
One of Pulau Ubin’s great draws is to get people back to nature. Look out for mudskippers and crabs in Chek Jawa wetlands. On your way around the island, you will see lots of butterflies of all different colours. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see some wild boars and monkeys.
Visit shrines and temples
For a tiny island, Pulau Ubin has a huge number of shrines and temples representing a variety of religions. If temples are your thing then you’re in the right place. These aren’t big or ostentatious but super interesting such as the German girl shrine, Wei Tuo Fa Gong Temple, Qiao Tou Da Bo Gong Shrine, Na Du Gong Shrine and, Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temple.
In addition to all the shrines, there are a number of houses you van visit on Pulau Ubin including Historic House No 1, House 363B Demonstration Kampong house, Former Headman’s house, and Teck Send’s House. These are often only open at weekends and on public holidays and sometimes will include a demonstration.
Other places of interest
Instagrammable spots – there are plenty of instagrammable spots around the island including at the quarries and from Chek Jawa boardwalk. For something a bit different and with less green, the temples, houses and some of the wall art provide some variety.
Cemeteries – there are two cemeteries: the Muslim cemetery and the Chinese cemetery. We only walked past the Muslim cemetery and I must admit that, had it not been for the sign, I’d have never known.
Huts – there are a number of huts around Ubin and each has it’s own name. All the huts are named after Malaysian birds, have something of interest to read or see, and can provide shelter from the rain.
Visitor Centres – there are two visitor centres. One is Ubin Town and the other at Chek Jawa.
People – there aren’t many people still left that living on Pulau Ubin but those that do have a great story to tell. Get chatting to the bumboat driver, bike shop owner, or visitor centre worker to find out more about the island.
Where to eat on Pulau Ubin
According to Singapore’s National Parks website, there are four restaurants operating in Pulau Ubin including the 30-year-old Encik Hassan’s shop and ‘Cheong Lian Yuen’. Both are close to the Ubin jetty. ‘Sin Nam Huat’ can be found opposite the Wayang stage and ‘Season Live Seafood Restaurant’ is towards Ubin Volunteer Hub. Most restaurants only open on weekends and public holidays. There are several shops in Ubin Town selling fruit, desserts, snacks, and drinks including refreshing coconut water served straight out of coconuts.
Alternative options include returning to Changi Point and eating at the hawker market there. We found a great restaurant called the Little Island Brewing Company.
Where to stay on Pulau Ubin
There are no hotels or hostels on Pulau Ubin. The Celestial Ubin Beach resort is permanently closed. Most visitors only visit for the day. However, there are three campsites on the island: Jelutong, Mamam, and Endut Senin Campsites. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, overnight stays on Pulau Ubin are not permitted due to COVID restrictions.
How to get there
Pulau Ubin is located just off the North East coast of Singapore and is easily accessible by “ferry”. I say “ferry”, because it is really a very small boat, known as a bumboat. Bumboats to Pulau Ubin leave from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. (Not to be confused with Changi Ferry Terminal which is two or three kilometres down the road!). Each bumboat can transport 12 people and they leave when there are enough people to fill the boat. The journey lasts for around five minutes and takes you directly to Ubin Jetty in Ubin Town. The same process operates for the return journey. A one-way trip costs SGD4.
Getting around the island
Pulau Ubin is just 1,020 hectares in size so, although there are a few motorised vehicles on the island, visitors can get around Pulau Ubin on foot or by bike. You can hire bikes from one of the several shops in Ubin Town. They have a variety of options including bikes with fat tyres, mountain bikes, road bikes, and single speed bikes. Prices vary from SGD 6 to SGD 20 depending on the bike. There are also (reportedly) taxis that operate from Ubin Jetty and Ubin Town.
How to plan your trip to Pulau Ubin
If you need more information about Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s National Parks website has a helpful microsite.
Other places to visit in Singapore
As part of my Comprehensive Guide series, I have written about several other cool places in Singapore to visit – be sure to check them out!