Best Nature Reserves and Parks For Leisure Hikes and Strolls in Singapore

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 12 January, 2021

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely family stroll, or seeking to challenge yourself to a workout, these 7 parks and nature reserves offer plenty to enjoy.

Thanks to our founding father Lee Kuan Yew, we Singaporeans have no lack of greenery to enjoy. With the rising awareness of the natural world’s importance, and continued efforts in developing truly innovative geo-engineering projects, it seems like our appreciation for nature and all its wonders will only continue to grow. 

If you’ve been wanting to develop a more intimate connection with the tiny island we call home, going for a hike or a leisure stroll at one of our numerous parks, green spaces and nature reserves is a great way to start. 

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely family stroll, want to discover more of Singapore’s vibrant past, or seeking to challenge yourself to a workout, these seven parks and nature reserves offer plenty to enjoy. 

Parks and nature reserves in Singapore for every taste

Name of parkLocationOpening hoursTime to spend thereBest time to goHighlights
Sembawang ParkSembawang Road 24 hours (park lighting hours 7pm to 7am)1 to 2 hoursAnytimeWaterfront facing the Johor Straits, children’s playground, heritage buildings, old naval facilities
Esplanade ParkAlong Connaught Drive24 hours (park lighting hours 7pm to 7am)1 to 2 hours5 to 7 pmHistoric memorials, waterfront views, CBD skyline
Thomson Nature ParkUpper Thomson Road7am to 7pm daily2 hoursAnytimeHiking and discovery trails, Hainan Village ruins, kampung way of life, freshwater habitats
MacRitchie ReservoirAlong Lornie Road7am to 7pm2 to 4 hoursMornings Variety of treks and hikes with different challenge levels, scenic manmade lake, abundant wildlife
Bukit Timah Nature ReserveHindhede Drive7am to 7pm1 to 2 hoursAnytimeSingapore’s highest hill, abundant flora and fauna, historic caves, Hindhede Quarry
Sungei Buloh Wetland ReserveSungei Buloh7am to 7pm1 to 2 hoursAnytimeUnique mangrove habitat, diverse wetland animal and bird species 
Chestnut Nature ParkChestnut Avenue7am to 7pm2 to 3 hoursAnytimeSeparate biking and hiking trails, hiddens streams and lakes, dense foliage and abundant wildlife 
Source: Google Maps

Sembawang Park - Waterfront strolls and historic views 

Location: End of Sembawang Road 

Getting there

  • By bus - 882 

Recommended duration: 1 to 2 hours during mealtimes

Opening hours: 24 hours (park lighting available from 7pm to 7am)

A truly underrated gem, Sembawang Park hides many surprises within its verdant embrace. There are heritage properties and historic ruins to discover, cheerfully coloured statues and sculptures to capture for the ‘Gram, playgrounds to conquer and open spaces to roam. 

The most appealing feature has to be the waterfront, a vast breezy broadwalk offering crisp water views of the serene Johor Straits . You can catch a glimpse of Johor Bahru, everyone’s sorely missed weekend shopping and dining destination.

Visit around mealtimes for a chance to dine at the seaside Beaulieu House, a colonial-era property serving up home-style cooking paired with lovingly restored interiors.

Before leaving, wander nearby to enjoy splendid views of old shipyards and private bungalows for a taste of Singapore’s old naval district days. 

Source: Google Maps

Esplanade Park - A relaxing break right in the heart of the CBD 

Location: Along Connaught Drive

Getting there

  • By MRT - Alight at CIty Hall or Esplanade stations

Recommended duration: 1 to 2 hours during sunset

Opening hours: 24 hours (park lighting available from 7pm to 7am)

With its location right in the beating heart of the city, Esplanade Park is a popular refuge for weary office workers seeking a quick break. 

But give yourself time to stroll along the tree-lined avenues and you will find the park brimming with history. 

On the grounds are the Lim Bo Seng Memorial and the Cenotaph, wartime tributes to the brave sacrifices of those who gave their lives for Singapore. There’s also the Tan Kim Seng Fountain - a distinctive Victorian-style water feature built in honour of one of Singapore’s foremost philanthropists. 

Esplanade Park is also surrounded by Singapore’s iconic skyline - a heady mixture of gleaming steel and glass rising up amongst squat terracotta-topped brick shophouses - making it one of the best spots to truly appreciate the city’s varied cultural background..

We recommend visiting around sunset to catch the magical view of the city’s skyline lighting up as dusk slowly descends all around. 

Source: Google Maps

Thomson Nature Park - Discover Singapore’s kampung days 

Location: Upper Thomson Road

Getting there

  • By bus - 138, 167, 169, 860, 980 

Recommended visit duration: About 2 hours 

Opening hours: 7am to 7pm

Occupying the site of a former Hainan Village, Thomson Nature Park offers a one-of-a-kind experience that combines hiking with the opportunity to discover Singapore's olden days. 

Nestled within the park’s 50ha span are five hiking and discovery trails developed from the village’s old roads. Each trail is specially curated to provide glimpses into the way of life during the kampung days, combined with insights into the area’s rich bio-diversity and variety of plant and animal life. 

Thomson Nature Park also holds special status as a key conservation site for the critically endangered small primate, the Branded Leaf Monkey (Raffles Branded Langur).

This location is recommended for hiking enthusiasts and local history buffs alike. 

Source: Google Maps

MacRitchie Reservoir - Hiking trails with different challenge levels

Location: Along Lornie Road

Getting there

  • By bus - 166, 52, 852, 980

Recommended visit duration: 2 to 4 hours during mornings

Opening hours: 7am to 7pm

A stalwart favourite for sports enthusiasts and nature lovers, MacRitchie Reservoir’s enduring popularity has prompted the addition of several adventure-themed amenities, transforming the destination into a must-visit. 

As a hiking spot, the reservoir is famous for its 11km round-trip trail that loops the scenic man-made lake in the middle. This route is considered fairly challenging at parts, so it’s best left to advanced trekkers who are properly equipped. 

However, MacRitchie Reservoir may also be savored in any number of ways, offering a selection of beginner friendly broadwalk treks alongside more advanced hiking trails. There’re also kayaking and other water sports on offer, and photo ops aplenty at famous spots such as Jelutong Tower. 

Even if hiking isn’t really your thing, the lush greenery and active wildlife (there’s the ever present threat of being accosted by hungry monkeys) should make for an interesting day out. We recommend starting your visit early in the morning, lest the midday humidity prompts a hasty retreat.

Source: Google Maps

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - A taste of Singapore’s original rainforest 

Location: Hindhede Drive

Getting there

  • By bus - 67, 75, 170, 171, 184, 852, 961
  • By MRT - Alight at Beauty World station

Recommended visit duration: 1 to 2 hours

Opening hours: 7am to 7pm

You may know Bukit Timah Nature Reserve as the site of Singapore’s highest hill, Bukit Timah Hill, but the location’s significance goes further than that.

The reserve also holds the few remaining pockets of Singapore’s original lowland rainforests, the primary ecosystem on the island before human settlement began. It is also said to contain more species of trees than the whole of North America, with a vibrant biodiversity that includes hundreds of different species of animals and insects. 

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was one of the first forest reserves to be established on the island, and today remains a popular hiking and trekking spot. There are four hiking trails to choose from, each offering unique twists. 

If you’re game for a cardio workout, follow the main route for a 45-min climb all the way to the peak. Otherwise, the other routes may be more suitable for the more exploration-focused trekker.

Source: Google Maps

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve - Birdwatching in a unique setting

Location: Sungei Buloh

Getting there

  • By Bus - 925

Recommended visit duration: 1 to 2 hours

Opening hours: 7am to 7pm

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve doesn’t offer much in terms of hiking (it is, afterall, a low-lying mangrove). What it does offer is a stunning variety of native bird species (140 at last count), and a thriving mangrove habitat full of creatures unique to it. 

Mudskippers, water snakes, shellfish, monitor lizards and otters are just some of the diverse species that call the reserve home, which consists of a dazzling array of mudflats, ponds and secondary forest. 

Pick a hideout to observe the many colourful birds flitting about, or amble down one of the many  walking trails for a relaxing day immersed in nature. 

Pay a visit during the migratory season (between September to March) and you might just catch plovers, sandpipers and other shorebirds in action.

Source: Google Maps

Chestnut Nature Park - Singapore’s largest nature park

Location: Chestnut Avenue

Getting there

  • By Bus - 700, 966
  • By MRT - Alight at Pending LRT station, then follow the tarmac track at Zhenghua Park 

Recommended visit duration: 2 to 3 hours

Opening hours: 7am to 7pm

Spanning 81 ha in total, Chestnut Nature Park is Singapore’s largest nature park.

The massive park contains separate trails for hiking and mountain biking, which should prove appealing to both trekkers and mountain bikers without worrying about cross paths with each other.

For hiking, the park is roughly split into two regions - North and South - for a total of three trails, each offering distinct experiences. 

The North region contains both the Northern Trail and the Nature Trail. The Northern Trail makes for a pleasant trek, featuring a scenic grove of trees and an observation tower in a clearing. Meanwhile, the highlights of the Nature Trail include a cheery bubbling stream, as well as remains of old kampungs.

The South region offers only one trail that loops back onto itself. Along the trek you’ll be greeted by fields of tall lallang plants, as well as large rocky boulders.

Before you set off

Excited to start exploring these nature parks and hiking trails? Before you run out the door, you should get prepared by paying attention to the following.

Wear proper shoes and equipment 

While hiking in the wilderness, it is common to encounter uneven and slippery surfaces. You could trip or fall and may end up with serious injuries. 

One of the most basic safety precautions is to wear the right pair of shoes, one designed for trail running or trekking purposes. Proper, well-fitting shoes will help you keep your footing and provide essential support, reducing the chances of a sprain or a tumble. 

When it comes to clothing, dressing in light, loose-fitting and breathable clothes is the best way to stay comfortable throughout your trek.  

The elderly or young children may benefit from the added protection of a helmet, elbow and knee guards, especially when attempting unfamiliar or challenging routes.  

Prepare for bad weather 

Getting drenched in a sudden storm and continuing your trek while wet is not only miserable, you may also catch a cold. 

Be sure to pack a windbreaker or parka in case of downpours so you can stay warm and dry. It also wouldn’t hurt to check the weather forecast before heading out.

Bring a water bottle 

Bring along some water for your personal consumption, in case you get thirsty halfway through the hike. 

Also, if you or your hiking companions suffer any scrapes and cuts, you’ll have clean water to wash out the wound with. 

Choose a double-walled vacuum bottle to keep a supply of refreshing cold water at hand. 

Prevent bites with bug spray 

Nature is full of insects, a great many of which are known for their nasty bites and potential to transmit diseases. Keep nasty and harmful biting bugs away with generous amounts of bug spray. 

Be sure to apply the spray on all exposed skin, especially sweaty areas. Re-apply according to directions to stay bite--free.

Limit your exposure to the sun

Being out during a sunny day can leave you with painful sunburns, especially if you’re going on a longer trek. 

Carry an umbrella, or wear a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves to cut down on your exposure to the sun, and be sure to apply sunscreen for greater protection. 

(According to this doctor, it is preferable to use separate sunscreen and insect repellent products. Apply sunscreen first, then follow with repellent, being sure to follow directions for each.)

Hiking is fun and healthy, but sprains, fractures and infected bites are just some of the common dangers. Make sure your personal accident protection is up to date before you go exploring that next nature trail.

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An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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