Cairns is a special place. Home to the world’s oldest rainforest, and known to many as “the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef”, the city is a nature lover’s paradise.

Tucked away in the corner of Queensland’s isolated northwestern coast, Cairns is a small but vibrant city, with a tropical climate, near year-round sun, crystal clear waters, and soft white-sand beaches dotted along its shores.

With plenty of adventures to be had in the region, there’s no shortage of first-rate accommodation options available. Join us as we look at some of the best hotels in Cairns.

Don’t see your accommodation listed? Get in touch at [email protected] and let us know why you should be included.

What is the best area to stay in Cairns?

There’s a lot to love about Cairns, but determining the best place to stay boils down to purpose and preference.

First-time visitors to the city coming for a leisurely vacation usually look at the area around the Esplanade, where the iconic man-made Cairns Esplanade Lagoon, its surrounding parklands, the celebrated Cairns Aquarium, Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome, Esplanade Markets, and Muddy’s Playground can be found. There are scores of activities around the Esplanade, so it’s a good starting point for visitors of all kinds. 

Foodies and those who like to travel in style gravitate towards Palm Cove, whereas those looking for more of a laid-back vibe and local experience might consider Trinity Beach. 

Wherever you chose, the Sunshine State’s northernmost major city is a great place to visit and unwind, with adventure at the ready in every corner.

What are the best luxury hotels in Cairns?

Travellers are spoiled for choice when it comes to luxury hotels in Cairns, with some of the country’s most premier accommodation on offer.

For the 4-star plus luxury hotel treatment, we recommend these properties:

Crystalbrook Riley, located at the northern end of the city, is a 5-star hotel and 1 of 3 ultra-premium, sustainably-focused, 5-star Crystalbrook properties in Cairns. With its stylish rooms, 3 restaurants and bars (including Cairns’ highest rooftop bar, Rocco), lagoon pool and private beach, day spa, and fitness centre, the Riley is a celebrated hotel of the highest standard, and should be visited at least once.

Those interested in a contemporary casino beach resort experience should consider the Pullman Reef Hotel Casino. A 5-star hotel with its own casino, 4 bars, and award-winning Thai-fusion Tamarind Restaurant, the property also has a rooftop swimming pool, spa pool, and sauna. A dedicated, manned tour desk is another highlight of the hotel. Cairns Wildlife Dome, with its koalas, crocodiles, and wallabies, is also located within the hotel complex, and is popular with kids of all ages. 

LITTLE HOTELIER TOP TIP : Connect with niche online travel agents (OTAs). You may be listed on and Expedia, but by connecting with additional niche OTA using a channel manager software, you could get far more bookings from your ideal type of guest.

What are the best hotels on a budget in Cairns?

Cairns isn’t just for luxury travellers – with its unique tropical party town atmosphere (bright floral Hawaiian shirts are the norm here), relaxed every-hour-is-happy-hour bar scene, and the natural wonders at its doorstep, Cairns is a favourite destination of backpacker travelling communities. 

There are numerous quality budget accommodation options in Cairns, including:

Bounce Cairns has a reputation for being one of the best hostels in Cairns, with many accolades and glowing reviews to prove it. Offering a hybrid of deluxe private suites and premium shared rooms in a beach club-style resort setting, Bounce could easily be mistaken for a premium hotel. With its free breakfast, free high-speed WiFi, outdoor pool and bar, and central location, Bounce is an amazing value-for-money accommodation option in Cairns.

What are the best hotels with a view?

With scenic views, and natural wonders at its doorstep, finding a great view in the city once known as Trinity Bay is easy, but what are the best hotels with a view in Cairns?

There are a couple of properties that stand (only just) above the rest with their expansive views of the city and coastline:

What are the best hotels for couples?

Whether guests are planning to visit Cairns for a romantic getaway, or simply time away as a couple to explore all the region has to offer, there are some excellent hotel options in the Sunshine State’s northernmost major city.

Couples looking to be in the heart of the action, the 5-star Pullman Reef Hotel Casino is a great pick. Renowned for its fully featured complex, the Reef Hotel Casino overlooks Trinity Inlet, is centrally located at only 250 metres from the Esplanade, and gives guests the celebrity treatment – the perfect start for a weekend away.

If it’s beachfront luxury that you’re after, the 4-star DoubleTree by Hilton Cairns is worthy of consideration. Centred around a unique rainforest atrium, and surrounded by landscaped, tropical gardens with views of the Coral Sea, the property is a short stroll from the Esplanade and all it has to offer.

LITTLE HOTELIER TOP TIP : Ensure your website is mobile-friendly. This is especially important for hotels, as guests will often look for somewhere to stay while they’re on the move or looking for a last-minute deal. Choosing a mobile-optimised website provider (such as Little Hotelier’s website builder) makes it easy from the start.

What are the best hotels for families?

Cairns is a great family holiday destination, and for good reason:

  • The man-made Cairns Esplanade Lagoon provides a safe swimming spot by the beach, with depths ranging from 35 centimetres to 5 feet, allowing parents to kick back and get some down time. 
  • There’s the celebrated world-class Cairns Aquarium, which showcases many of the region’s tropical aquatic species of fish and wildlife. 
  • And there are some unique experiences to be had here too, with the likes of Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Park – the world’s first challenge ropes course in a wildlife park.

All of these highlights are located down by the Esplanade, so families are sure to focus on that area to be within walking distance. 

Families travelling to Cairns could consider Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort – a 4.5-star resort which is only a short walk to the Esplanade. Featuring its own sandy beach pool, children’s pool, and swim-up bar, the hotel is a great place to unwind any time of day, and provides easy access to all of the wonderful activities the Esplanade has to offer.

With its generously sized family rooms and classic Queenslander-style aesthetic, Coral Tree Inn is another popular choice for families looking to be close to the Esplanade. A pool, BBQ, and buffet breakfast round out this 3-star hotel. 

Where to stay to be close to the Great Barrier Reef?

For many people, the allure of Cairns is its proximity to one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef. While both Cairns and Townsville (365 kilometres south of Cairns) offer easy access to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns has better access to the islands further out in the reef, providing greater discovery opportunities for intrepid travellers and oceanic explorers.

Visitors looking to be as close to the reef as possible should look at Green Island Resort, an upscale 4-star eco resort off the coast of Cairns, within the Great Barrier Reef Coral Cay. Another island resort to look at off the coast of Cairns is Fitzroy Island Resort – a 4-star island escape on Fitzroy Island National Park.

Within the city limits of Cairns itself, the 5-star Shangri-La The Marina hotel is situated prominently next to Cairns Marlin Marina, where daily and half-daily tours of the Great Barrier Reef operate from, provides a unique perspective of the city and its coastal waters, and is worthy of consideration for visitors wanting the best of both worlds.

LITTLE HOTELIER TOP TIP : If you’re near a landmark, offer something truly unique, or if you’re the perfect choice for a certain type of guest, be sure to let people know! You can include this content on your website but also your Google My Business listing.

What are the best hotels by the airport?

Cairns Airport is a major international hub connecting tropical North Queensland to the world, and is Australia’s 7th busiest airport. Located in the suburb of Aeroglen, to the north of the city, there are several well-regarded accommodation providers within close proximity to the airport, including:

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By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).