Riley Hotel Review: Cairns Australia


Riley Quick Facts

Name: Riley | Book it

Location: 131-141 The Esplanade, Cairns City QLD 4870, Australia

Price: $130 and up


  • Brand new property, opened in November 2018

  • 311 Rooms and Suites

  • Lagoon Pool and Private Beach

  • Cairns’ highest rooftop bar, Rocco

  • Eleme Spa on site

  • 24-hour Fitness Center

  • Event Spaces for up to 400 guests

Best tip: Don’t miss sunset with a cocktail in hand at Rocco, the rooftop bar and restaurant.

Stay here if…you want luxurious rooms and a quiet place to sleep at night.

Read on: Full Travel Guide for Cairns Australia


Getting to Riley in Cairns

The airport in Cairns is extremely close to the city center. We were able to use Uber in Cairns, such a great convenience, and Uber even allowed us to be picked up right in front of the airport. The total price for the short 15 (if that) minute ride was around US$12

It was monsooning (literally) in Cairns when we arrived so I was very grateful for Riley's overhang ceiling and circular driveway for cabs and buses. It allowed us to enter the hotel without getting soaking wet. I’m told it rains a lot in Cairns — it sure did when we were there — so this is a great feature for a hotel in Cairns to have.

Read on: Everything you need to know about how to visit the Great Barrier Reef

Checking In & The Room

The check-in process was insanely smooth. The hotel has fruit infused water for guests to enjoy while passports and credit cards are documented and swiped. We received a complimentary upgraded (to a superior room) also located in the brand new tower. They informed us the tower had only opened three weeks prior, we were one of the first guests lucky enough to experience the new tower rooms.

The room itself was absolutely gorgeous, beautifully decorated. I was extremely impressed with how technologically advanced the amenities in the room were. Lighting was controlled with multiple buttons right next to your bed. They had different options — some based on a mood, others for a certain time of day. A total of six (!) options gave you lighting for morning to night and romantic to energetic. There was also an iPad which negated any reason to pick up a phone and call the front desk. You could order room service — available 24 hours a day — or order more blankets and pillows. Matt went a bit crazy with the pillow menu and wanted to try out all eight varieties. They kindly brought us a cart full of pillows, and when I embarrassingly opened the door, the housekeeper assured us it wasn't a problem.

The bed itself was a king. Soft, warm and, best of all, extremely comfortable. The only complaint I had while at Riley was the air conditioner. We weren’t able to be set it below 70. It wasn't hard to sleep, and overall it wasn’t a problem, but I would have preferred the room to be a touch cooler.

The bathroom was large and modern with white marble and recessed lighting throughout. The shower (no bath) had a waterfall shower-head. If you are a frequent reader you know I hate these new waterfall units that are popping up in hotels around the world. But, Riley shower-head was strong and powerful. Maybe I'm starting to come around on them.

I don't want to keep gushing about the room but I do have one more thing I want to mention. The TV and entertainment system. The hotel loaded your in-room system with over 100 movies to choose from. All free. We actually watch the new Solo movie (over two nights while fighting jetlag) and both the TV and sound experience was just spectacular. I've stayed at many hotels and even the high-end hotels tend to skimp on the TV and sound quality. There was no skimping on Riley’s end. Riley also gave us the option to connect our phones to the screen — basically mirroring your iPhone screen to the TV — via an app. Handy for when we wanted to watch Netflix and Hulu.

Read on: The best cities to visit in Australia

The pool at Riley in Cairns is phenomenal and great for relaxing.

The pool at Riley in Cairns is phenomenal and great for relaxing.

Amenities at Riley in Cairns

The Pool

The best amenity at Riley was certainly the large outdoor pool. It was one of the best hotel pools I've ever seen because it was built with different sections each serving a different purpose. On one side was a long enclosed section for swimmers who want to get exercise via laps. Another section had a large jacuzzi for couples. There was a beach section for families with small children and a deeper section near the front of the pool featured an infinity-type edge that overall felt very sleek.

Outside the pool were many different seating options as well. One side of the pool had soft sand and comfy lounge chairs with umbrellas. While the other side was simply concrete and basic loungers. There were also multiple cabanas and larger tables right outside the pool gates, making it easier to eat.

Read on: How to get from Sydney to Cairns

The eleme spa at Riley

I was able to experience a massage while at Riley with a visit to Eleme Spa, I was subsequently blown away with the brand. The experience was a joy from start to finish. Matt and I entered and enjoyed tea and a quick chat with our masseuse before heading to the locker room to derobe. The actual massage was a bit over an hour and included a selection of oils for us to choose from. After the massage we were allowed to relax in the lounge and refuel with some protein balls and more tea and water.

Fitness Center

The fitness center on site is open 24 hours a day. The hotel also offers morning yoga sessions on select days.

Responsible Luxury

Riley is drawing on a relatively new philosophy in the travelspere. Responsible luxury. For Riley this means many things. Paper free check-in and out. No plastic drinking bottles or straws. No plastic key cards - instead they used recycled wooden cards. Even paper in the room has been limited. The typical dining menus, hotel policies, and amenity extras are all located in the iPad found in each room.

Outdoor seating at Greenfields, a restaurant at Riley in Cairns

Outdoor seating at Greenfields, a restaurant at Riley in Cairns

Dining at Riley

The only time we ate at Riley was on our last day. We dined poolside and order off the lunch menu. I had a ramen burrito (so exotic!) and Matt had sweet potatoes nachos. Both were interesting takes on classic items. The innovative approaching was fun to try and we both enjoyed them so much we ended up sharing the whole meal. The portions were large and I didn't find the pool menu overpriced at all. Especially compared to the rest of the city.

We also experienced the bar on the top floor of Riley’s new tower building. It was extremely convenient as well since we were staying in the tower. The bar itself was exceptionally well done. It overlooks the entire town of Cairns. Sunset from the bar balcony were particularly incredible. Both the indoor and outdoor areas were large with tons of seating — which means you won’t have to fight for space.

The rest of the food at Riley — especially the breakfast buffet — looked amazing. Again, I can't say we ate on the property much but I did speak with other guests at the hotel about the food and experience. All guests only had good things to say. Here are the different restaurants Riley offers:

  • Rocco: Cairns’ highest rooftop bar with perfect views. They serve a take on Mediterranean fare.

  • Paper Crane: Come here for modern Asian fare with the freshest product from Queensland’s.

  • Greenfields: As the name suggests, Greenfields encourages healthy eating while on vacay with cold pressed juices and a focus on raw and simple meals.

Wifi at Riley

While in Cairns, both Matt and myself were working for the majority of our time there. I was really happy, and relieved, to find the WiFi at Riley to be excellent. We were both able to answer emails and include large attachments with ease. Matt and I also streamed Netflix one night and there was no lag.

Is Riley Close to Cairns?

Riley is located extremely close to the city center in Cairns.

While the hotel appears to be located more on the outskirts of Cairns, it is still extremely close to the city center. The city of Cairns itself is very tiny and easily walkable. You can read my whole guide on Cairns here. From the hotel entrance to the main terminal (this is where you will meet for most excursions) was only a 15-minute walk. And that would be 15-minutes of very slow walking. Many restaurants can be found around the hotel. Riley is also in a very safe area of Cairns.

I will also add that I really liked that it was a tiny bit further away from the ‘main area’ of Cairns. This made it was very quiet at night. I really value my sleep — especially when trying to get over jetlag. Those first couple of days are so crucial and good sleep is a must! I would encourage you to stay at Riley, especially if Cairns is at the beginning of your trip to Australia, because most other Cairns hotels are closer to the center where more bars will be located. I can’t speak to how loud, or well insulated, these hotels are but I definitely liked having a quiet place to sleep.

Final Thoughts

As you can probably tell, I truly enjoyed my experience at Riley so much. The food was great, the spa was a dream, and the location was perfect. If you are visiting Cairns I highly recommend this fabulous hotel.

Planning a trip to Australia can be overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on this beautiful location and you may be frozen and unable to plan anything. Rest assured that no matter what you choose to do in Australia or where you choose to stay in Australia you're going to have a beautiful time. 

One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing an Australian travel guide along with you. Here are some of the travel guides I used during my trip...

Also, a super common question I get is: What camera do I use for my travels. The body is a Nikon D5600 and I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens which I am genuinely obsessed with.

My full list of travel gear, that I take on every trip can be found here.

And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com). 

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