Looking for where to stay in Cairns? Here is an up-to-date accommodation guide with picks for the best hotels in Far North Queensland’s capital. Includes a detailed area guide for where to stay in Cairns, as well as a wide range of Cairns accommodation options from luxury hotels to budget backpacker hostels, and everything in between.
Cairns has a solid reputation as being one of the best holiday destinations in Australia. It’s said that over 3 million tourists visit Cairns every year to see epic attractions like the Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest.
You’d understand then that when it comes down to picking a place to stay in Cairns, it can get a little daunting. To help you narrow down the best options, I’ve compiled this comprehensive Cairns accommodation guide featuring 5 of the best luxury hotels in Cairns, 6 value hotels, resorts and guest houses, as well as 5 of the best budget hostels in Cairns.
I’ve also included a quick destination guide below to help you plan which area you should stay in Cairns.
Best Hotels: Cairns Accommodation Quick-list
If you are in a rush, below is a quick-list with some of the best hotels in Cairns to suit every need:
Where to stay in Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef: Fitzroy Island Resort
Best Hotel on the Cairns Esplanade: Rydges Resort
Best Cairns Accommodation on the Beach: Paradise Beach Resort
The Best Hotel in Cairns City: Cairns City Palms
Best Cairns Accommodation in Palm Cove: Alamanda
Best Budget Backpackers in Cairns: Gilligans Backpackers
I’ve spent loads of time photographing and documenting travel content for Cairns. Once you’ve figured out where to stay, make sure to check out my other blog posts including the epic list of things to do, the best waterfalls, the best hikes and walking tracks and a quick rundown of what to pack.
A Quick Rundown of Where to Stay in Cairns
While Cairns is an extremely popular tourist destination in Australia, only around 150 000 people actually live here. As a result, Cairns has a really laid back, tropical vibe. Locals refer to the city as “town”, reflecting the old-school Aussie way of life in the tropics that can really be a stark reminder of just how hectic other cities in Australia can get.
Which Cairns Area to Stay
For those of you visiting Cairns and trying to plan which area to book accommodation at, let me break it down for you.
Cairns Esplanade is the waterfront where most of the attractions and activities in the city are located. This is the main tourist strip and you’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants and tour booking offices here. Typically, hotels and resorts on the Esplanade are the most expensive in Cairns since you’ll often get waterfront views.
Cairns City refers to greater Cairns and the surrounding suburbs. Many of the hotels and accommodation options in Cairns just off the main esplanade end up a lot cheaper but are still within walking distance of almost everything.
Palm Cove is another great place to choose when planning where to stay in Cairns. This beach is located on the Cairns Northern Beaches, approximately 30 minutes north of the city. Palm Cove is a great spot if you’d like to swim at the beach near your hotel or resort.
The islands: There are loads of Islands off Cairns to explore when visiting. If you’d like to stay on a tropical Great Barrier Reef Island, then the only option is Fitzroy Island, a quick 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns Harbour.
Cairns International Airport is conveniently located just 15 minutes from the Esplanade and roughly 25 minutes from the Northern Beaches.
Cairns Accommodation Map
Below is a map with up-to-date accommodation options to help you figure out where to stay in Cairns (with prices).
Summary of the Best Hotels in Cairns
Luxury Hotels & Resorts
|Rydges Esplanade Resort||Esplanade||$319|
|Pullman Reef Hotel Casino||Cairns Esplanade||$429|
|Fitzroy Island Resort||Fitzroy Island||$315|
|Crystalbrook Riley||Cairns City||$395|
Best Value Hotels & Holiday Homes
|OPTION||AREA||PRICE PER NIGHT|
|Oaks Hotel||Cairns Esplanade||$239|
|Paradise on the Beach Resort||Palm Cove||$210|
|Cairns Colonial Club Resort||Cairns City||$89|
|Cairns City Palms||Cairns City||$120|
|Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside||Cairns Esplanade||$155|
|The Red Sparrow 2||Cairns City||$210|
Budget Hostels & Guest Rooms
|OPTION||AREA||PRICE PER NIGHT|
|Mad Monkey Backpacker Village||Cairns City||$15|
|Tropic Days Boutique Hostel||Cairns City||$18|
|Gilligans Backpackers||Cairns City||$14|
|Travellers Oasis||Cairns City||$20|
Where to Stay in Cairns: Best Hotels & Accommodation Options
Best Luxury Hotels and Resorts in Cairns
Rydges Esplanade Resort
The Rydges Esplanade Resort is one of the best-rated resorts in Cairns located in the heart of the Esplanade. Visitors looking for a place to stay in Cairns with all the features, make sure to check out this epic Cairns accommodation option.
All rooms have a balcony and range from standard twin rooms with mountain views to executive suites with balcony views over the Coral Sea. Facilities include three swimming pools, two tennis courts, a jacuzzi, a fitness centre and even an award-winning restaurant.
This is easily one of the best hotels in Cairns and rooms are surprisingly affordable!
Check price & availability for your dates at the Rydges Esplanade Resort.
Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
The Pullman Reef Hotel is a great place to stay for Cairns visitors chasing great nightlife. This Cairns hotel has an attatched casino and four bars with regular live music.
You’ll also find a rooftop pool, spa pool and sauna with huge, comfortable rooms overlooking Cairns or the Trinity Inlet.
Check price & availability for your dates at the Pullman Reef Hotel & Casino.
The Alamanda by Lancemore
The Alamanda by Lancemore is located in Palm Cove, approximately 35 minutes from the Cairns Esplanade. This resort is one of the best offerings for those looking for fully-equipped apartments in a resort setting.
Featured in this apartment resort are three swimming pools, a day spa, a hot tub and a bar. Each apartment has its own balcony with pool or ocean views.
Check price & availability for your dates at the Alamanda by Lancemore.
FEATURED IN: Cairns Beaches: 11 Best Beaches in Cairns
Fitzroy Island Resort
If you’ve come to Cairns chasing tropical island escapes then Fitzroy Island is one of the best places to stay! Could you imagine snorkelling with green sea turtles right off the beach followed by sunset cocktails? A visit to Fitzroy Island is a must for anyone coming to the Tropical North!
While you don’t have to stay here to visit the island, this incredible place deserves at least two days of exploring and the resort is hands down one of the best in Cairns! But, get in quick for this one because they fill up quickly.
Check price & availability for your dates at the Fitzroy island Resort.
BOOK A DAY-FERRY INSTEAD: Fitzroy Island Ferry Ticket
Update 2022: As of January, the Crystalbrook Riley’s sister resort, the Crystalbrook Bailey is now the only luxury hotel in Cairns that is dog friendly!
The Crystalbrook Riley is one of the most prominent buildings you’ll spot near the waterfront in Cairns. This epic 5-star hotel features three restaurants, a lagoon pool and private beach, a day spa and a 24-hour fitness centre.
The highlight of staying at the Crystalbrook is by far the service. The reviews are outstanding and definitely worth every dollar. If you stay at the Crystalbrook, make sure to head up to the rooftop bar known as Roccos. This is a famous bar in Cairns and definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Check price & availability for your dates at the Cairns Crystalbrook Riley.
Best Value Hotels & Holiday Homes in Cairns
The Oaks Hotel
The Oaks Hotel is Cairns’ newest hotel. This accommodation option is perfectly located nearby the boardwalk and the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon.
This is a great option for those looking for a hotel in a prime spot with a resort-Esque feel without breaking the bank. Although the rooms are a little more expensive than the other value hotels on this list, the Oaks definitely makes up for it in quality.
Check price & availability for your dates at the Oaks Hotel.
Paradise on the Beach Resort
If you’d prefer palm-lined beaches and waterfront restaurants to nightlife, then I highly recommend booking accommodation in Palm Cove. Paradise on the Beach is one of the best-value resorts in Palm Cove and offers beach view studios with balconies overlooking the gardens.
Paradise on the Beach also has a pool and is close to Il Forno Pizzeria, my absolute favourite restaurant in the Far North.
Check price & availability for your dates at Paradise on the Beach Resort.
Cairns Colonial Club Resort
Located just a 10 minutes drive from the city centre, Cairns Colonial Club is a tropical resort you can often book for under $100! I’ve included it on this list of where to stay in Cairns because it has great ratings and offers excellent value for money.
This affordable resort is set on 11 acres and has 3 lagoon pools and a great free breakfast. There’s also a great poolside cocktail bar that is a favourite standout in the reviews.
Check price & availability for your dates at the Cairns Colonial Club Resort.
DON’T MISS THE ACCOMMODATION GUIDE TO PORT DOUGLAS
Cairns City Palms
Cairns City Palms is located close to most of the attractions and highlights in town. Within just 5 minutes you can find supermarkets, gyms, restaurants, bars and restaurants. For those wondering where to stay in Cairns that offers full-sized suits and apartments, look no further.
This Cairns hotel offers great self-contained suites and apartments with all of the features. Also, there is a pool to chill by with a Balinese hut to escape the sun.
Check price & availability for your dates at the Cairns City Palms.
Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside
Looking for where to stay on the Cairns Esplanade without a huge price tag? Holiday Inn is a great bet, being one of the best-located hotels in the area. Each room has a balcony either overlooking the ocean or the mountains.
You’ll also get to enjoy a pool, restaurant and fitness area!
Check price & availability for your dates at the Cairns Holiday Inn (Harbourside).
The Red Sparrow 2
I’ve added this option because I know that there are many families who would prefer to rent an entire house for their Cairns getaway. The Red Sparrow 2 is the best-rated holiday house in Cairns and offers tremendous value.
This holiday home is located just a few hundred metres from the waterfront and includes 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom with a shower and a family room. Visitors looking to explore all of the incredible things to do in the area will love this place as there’s a spot for your rental car too!
Check price & availability for your dates at the Red Sparrow 2.
Best Budget Hostels in Cairns
Flashpackers on Palm Cove is a great backpacker hostel with one of the best vibes in Cairns. It’s located on the beachfront near the swimming nets and close to lots of bars and restaurants. There’s a pool on the property and visitors can book private rooms or beds in dorms.
There’s also a great common area at Flashpackers and an outside BBQ where you can meet other travellers.
Check price & availability for your dates at Flashpackers – Cairns Backpackers.
Mad Monkey Backpacker Village
Truthfully, Mad Monkey Backpacker Village is a perfect budget hostel in Cairns. It’s great for backpackers looking for a central location with plenty of features. You can rent a bike for free and use the free fitness centre!
Did I mention there was a pool too? There’s a reason why Mad Monkey Backpacker Village is one of the most-booked budget hostels in Cairns!
Check price & availability for your dates at Mad Monkey Backpacker Village.
Tropic Days Boutique Hostel
Tropic Days is another Cairns hostel worthy of a spot on this accommodation guide to where to stay in Cairns. Although this one is a little further out from the Esplanade, the hostel offers a free shuttle bus service. Guests can also enjoy a free breakfast and relaxing garden vibes.
You’ll also find a pool at Tropic Days and the reviews rave about the vibe. If you’re looking for a chill place to meet other travellers in Cairns, then consider the Tropic Days Boutique Hostel!
Check price & availability for your dates at Tropic Days Boutique Hostel.
I’ve listed Gilligan’s Backpackers above as the best budget backpacker hostel on this list of where to stay in Cairns. With so many great hostels, it was hard to pick one. However, Gilligan’s stands out for its great range of rooms and its epic lagoon pool.
There’s always a great vibe at Gilligan’s and the kitchen, pool and lounge area are all a great places to meet people. Also, the location is top-notch. You can easily walk to The Esplanade and all of the great bars and restaurants in the city.
Check price & availability for your dates at Gilligan’s Backpackers in Cairns.
Traveller’s Oasis offers some of the best budget rooms for accommodation in Cairns. The rooms are definitely on the low-budget end of the spectrum, that’s why I’ve listed the Traveller’s Oasis as a budget hostel.
However, it isn’t strictly a hostel. While they do offer very cheap dorm rooms, you can also pick up great value double room, often for under $50 a night.
The location of this hotel is excellent, being only 10 minutes walk from The Esplanade. Also, the grounds have a pool and offer an airport shuffle. If you’re looking for where to stay in Cairns on a budget, consider checking out the Traveller’s Oasis!
Check price & availability for your dates at Traveller’s Oasis.
More Travel & Adventure Guides to Cairns
I hope that you have enjoyed this accommodation guide to where to stay in Cairns Australia. For more travel guides, adventure inspiration and activity ideas in Far North Queensland, check out some of my other articles below!
If you find any more Cairns hotels, resorts or accommodation options that you believe should be featured on “Where to Stay in Cairns: Best Areas, Hotels & Accommodation Options“, then please let me know in the comments below.
Also, if you’d like to help other travellers out, let everyone know what you thought of your Cairns accommodation to spread the word!