This article on Pulau Ubin was first published in June 2019 and updated in January 2020.
Just $3 and 10 minutes takes you to a land of kampongs and beautiful nature – a picture of what Singapore was like before it became a city state. Accessible, cheap and peaceful, Pulau Ubin is a favourite among many Singaporeans.
If you’re wondering what to do in Pulau Ubin, look no further as this guide has all the information you’ll need.
- History of Pulau Ubin
- Getting to Pulau Ubin
- Getting around Pulau Ubin
- What to do in Pulau Ubin
- What to Eat and Drink on Pulau Ubin
- Things to note on Pulau Ubin
History of Pulau Ubin
The legend of Pulau Ubin states that three animals raced to the shores of Johor. If any of the animals failed to land at Johor (in current day Malaysia) they would be instantly turned to stone.
Of the three animals, which were an elephant, a frog and a pig, none of them made it and were said to have turned into the islands of Pulau Sekudu between the Serangoon Harbour and Chek Jawa wetlands, and another two islands separated by the Jelutong River, which are now combined to make up Pulau Ubin.
Legend aside, Pulau Ubin used to be mined for granite from the mid 1800s and was called ‘Granite Stone Island’. It was first sketched by Singapore city planner and surveyor British Royal Navy Lieutenant Philip Jackson in 1828. Much of the granite was used to build the Singapore-Johore Causeway.
Business thrived in the 1930s, leading to the creation of Kampongs (traditional villages) and a few thousand inhabitants. Land was also cultivated for crops to both consume and sell, providing communities with fresh food to enjoy together.
The granite industry began its decline in the 1970s and commercial crop cultivation stopped in the 1980s. The last operational quarry was shut down in 1999. Today, about 24 households remain on Pulau Ubin, relying on wells and diesel generators for electricity. Yet there are still around 300,000 visitors per year who come seeking a Singapore that is stuck in time.
Getting to Pulau Ubin
Getting to Pulau Ubin is simple. From Changi Point Ferry Terminal, a $3 bumboat ride takes you to Singapore’s favourite island in roughly 10-15 minutes. Enjoy the journey’s view of skies and sea, void of Singapore’s usual cityscape.
Bumboats leave when 12 people are ready to board, so be prepared for a short wait, unless you’re willing to pay the full fare of $36. Bumboats can be hired at any time of the day, usually stopping service at around 7pm. You can make earlier arrangements with the bumboat operator if you plan to make a trip after sunset.
Remember that only cash is accepted. Also note that there are no ATMs on the island, so it’s best to draw all the cash you’ll need beforehand. If you forgot to withdraw cash, you can visit the POSB and OCBC cash machines near the Changi Village hawker centre.
Getting around Pulau Ubin
Exploring the things to do in Pulau Ubin begins either by cycling or on foot. Once you alight at the jetty, turn left and you’ll find many shops offering their bicycles for rent.
If you prefer to bring your own bicycle, it will cost another $2 to bring it on the bumboat. Whether you rent or bring one, we recommend picking a bike with a basket to put your bag in.
Tip: Be sure to check if your bike is working well before you set off!
Whether you plan to hike or cycle, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and light clothing. As it does in the rest of Singapore, Pulau Ubin gets extremely hot in the mid afternoon so a hat and a pair of sunglasses are useful.
Do also bring insect repellent, as the mosquitos can be viscous. Shelters are scattered across the island to take refuge in during your journey, and remember to drink lots of water!
In case of a sudden downpour, bring a poncho or an umbrella or just click here for the weather forecast.
Here is a Pulau Ubin Map from NParks.
What to do in Pulau Ubin
You can now start exploring the things to do in Pulau Ubin with the main feature – nature!
Chek Jawa Wetlands
You cannot miss a visit to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, a fascinating example of Singapore’s richest ecosystems in a more natural and isolated setting than Gardens by the Bay. Opened to the public in December 2000, multiple habitats can be found in the wetlands.
Marine life is best seen during low tide, ideally at 0.5m and under. Be sure to check this tides table to avoid disappointment.
The best way to explore will be by attending the Chek Jawa Guided tour led by one of Npark’s nature guides. The 1 hour tour costs $60 for a group of 15 people, click here for updated dates and details.
To get to Chek Jawa, pick a van for hire at Ubin’s main village. The ride costs $2 per person and like the bumboat, only leaves when 12 passengers are ready.
Cycling there is also welcome, but be sure to park and lock your bicycles at a designated lot by Punai Hut. If you prefer to travel by foot, it is an approximate 40 minute walk.
Take a stroll along the fairly new Chek Jawa Coastal Boardwalk for a great viewpoint of the ocean and surrounding nature.
Jejawi Tower @ Chek Jawa Wetlands
Take a walk along the mangrove boardwalk and you’ll come to the Jejawi Tower viewpoint where you will get a panoramic view of the Chek Jawa Wetlands. The tower is 20m high and above the tree canopy so you will be able to see some amazing sights of the surrounding waters and islands.
Teck Seng’s Place
If you’re traveling to Pulau Ubin on either the 2nd and 4th weekend of the month or a public holiday between 10am to 2pm, you’ll be able to see this former home turned museum.
It was the former residence of Mr Chew Teck Seng from 1970 to 2005. When him and his family moved to the mainland, he returned the house to the state. They have maintained its original kampong feel and it is a great way to see how Singaporeans lived before modernisation.
House No. 1
This Instagram-worthy Tudor-style house was built in the 1930s and was recently restored in 2005. Today, it’s actually the visiting centre for Chek Jawa and not really someone’s home. Walk over to the rear of the house to get some amazing views of Changi Village and Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island).
See our list of the most Instagrammable spots in Singapore beyond Pulau Ubin here.
Ubin Fruit Orchard and the Sensory Trail
Recently opened in 2016, Ubin Fruit Orchard is blossoming fruit tree arboretum where you can learn more about the uncommon tropical trees were grown Pulau Ubin back in the day. You can find durian, rambutans, and starfruit as well as other fruits.
If you’d like to keep learning about the various vegetables, spices and herbs that flourished here in the 70s, then saunter along the Sensory Trail. This 1.5km path starts at the Main Village and ends at Teck Seng’s Place.
Visit all the quarries
There are several quarries to visit on Pulau Ubin and you can visit them all depending on how much time you have. Pekan Quarry is the closest to the village and Ubin Quarry is on the west and has some nice viewpoints, particularly from Puaka’s Hill after a slightly strenuous 74m hike to the highest point on the island.
The once bustling Ketam Quarry used to provide roughly 30-40% of granite to Singapore’s, but is not a chilled spot to relax and take in nature. Balai Quarry is a massive space and is closest to Chek Jawa in the east.
Explore the temples and shrines
There are several temples and shrines worth visiting on Pulau Ubin. They aren’t the most grand temples in Singapore like the ones you’d find in Chinatown or Little India, but are nice for contemplation and peace. There are two Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong Temples. The one closest to the Main Village is the more dominant and has a stage that is used for festivals and events. The second one is a bit further neat Pekan Quarry.
Wei Tuo Fa Gong Temple, near Ubin Quarry is a multi-purpose shrine that contains various gods and religious figures from Buddha to Hindu spirits.
For those exploring Puaka’s Hill, you will first pass Na Du Gong Shrine which is a small shrine dedicated to Datuk Gong or the local guardian spirits worshipped.
The final shrine you can seek out is the German Girl Shrine. This is dedicated to a young 18 year old German girl that was discovered by plantation workers. It is believed that she fell off a cliff while trying to escape from the British military during the World War 1 around 1910.
About half a km from the Main Village is the wonderful Butterfly Hill where you will find over 50 plant species that are said to attract around 140 species of butterfly. They range from the everyday to the rarer species such as the Dwarf Crow.
Yup, you can bring your rod and chill out in Pulau Ubin while waiting for the fish to bite. While fishing is not allowed in the quarries, you’ll surely catch something.
Tours & Walks
Pulau Ubin is a natural landscape filled with life waiting to be discovered. If being surrounded by nature isn’t your forte, don’t fret! There is an abundance of different walks and tours to guide you through.
Discover what living in Pulau Ubin was like by attending the 4 hour Pulau Ubin Tour. This cycling and hiking tour will educate you on Pulau Ubin’s heritage with stories of history. It also explores the biodiversity and natural landscapes of the area.
For a tour that’s a bit different, you can hop in a kayak with a certified guide to see the mangroves up close and personal. This Kayak Tour has different levels of difficulty from a chilled beginners ride through the waters to a more adventurous Ubin Bisect Kayaking tour. Book this tour here.
If you prefer to explore on your own, take on a Pulau Ubin Tree Trail with this thorough and engaging guide from NParks, learning at your own time and pace. Or wander along every path and tick off what you see on these checklists.
Volunteer Programmes and events
A precious island needs to be properly preserved and protected. Pulau Ubin is well taken care of by volunteers doing their part, from surveying fireflies to monitoring orchids. Join monthly inspections of the forest ensuring no harm is being done, or collect mangrove plant propagules while learning how they protect us from natural disasters.
Expand your knowledge and keep Ubin beautiful by putting in time with the land. Information on different volunteering opportunities can be found here, with registration and policies on Ubin volunteering found here.
There are also ongoing workshops and events on the island, which you can see online here.
What to Eat and Drink on Pulau Ubin
There is a selection of family restaurants and convenience stores in Ubin town to pick from. If you need a little help deciding, here are the ones we thought were worth mentioning. Note that most places close early, at around 5 or 6pm, as that is when the boats stop coming to the island.
And if you plan to visit somewhere specific, it may very well be closed as vendors go by island time, so they close and open as they like.
Even in Singapore, Pak Ali’s lontong has made a name for itself. Their coconut curry is thick and flavourful, paired perfectly with fragrant rice cakes. You have to be fast because this exclusive dish is sold only on Sundays and is often gone before 11am.
Season Live Seafood
Season Live Seafood is a tad pricier than you’d expect food in Pulau Ubin to be, but the prawn rolls are worth it. Built right on the shore, this restaurant serves fresh seafood that tastes great after a cycle around the island. Open Wednesday to Monday, from 10am to 6.30pm. More info here.
Cheong Lian Yuen Coffee Shop
Friendly staff and tasty food earned Cheong Lian Yuen Coffee Shop a recommendation from the locals. What they serve depends on what the fishermen catch that day – freshness is assured. More info here.
Things to note on Pulau Ubin
There are a few more things to note about what to do in Pulau Ubin, so read on for more information.
Shelters are scattered across the island, and there are toilet facilities at Pulau Ubin’s campsites. There is no street lights in Pulau Ubin, so be prepared for darkness beyond the main village after sunset.
Unlike Singapore, tap water in Pulau Ubin is non potable. Bottled drinks and water is available for purchase in the main village, either from convenience stores or from the family restaurants.
Although you’re not restricted to the paved roads, be aware that wild animals are present. Keep food in closed bags and do not aggravate them- monkeys and boars are most commonly spotted.
Be wary of steep slopes especially if you’re riding a bicycle. There are signs to warn you in advance so take heed. Safety first!
There are two camping sites on Pulau Ubin: Jelutong and Mamam. Both campsites are equipped with toilet facilities. Jelutong is closer to the village, faces the mainland, and has campfire sites. Mamam is closer to the north of the island and is more barebones.
To camp overnight you will need to register at the Pulau Ubin Police Post. You will also need to bring your own tent and sleeping gear along.
If you aren’t into camping, here are some great hotel options for a dose of luxe or some boutique hotels in Singapore if that’s more your thing. We also made a list of the best hotels in Singapore with rooftop pools to you can dive into the water after your hike or ride around the island.
NParks Info Kiosk: 65424108
Police Coast Guard: 63775540/63775542
Ubin Police Post: 65428664/96611591
If you find yourself in need of more amazing things to see in Singapore, then don’t forget to save our choice of free walking tours in Singapore.