Crystalbrook Riley Cairns hotel review

It’s the tropical escape that combines style, comfort, and exquisite dining against Cairns’ stunning coastline. The 311-room Crystalbrook Riley boasts a contemporary design infused with touches of coastal flair with spacious private balconies overlooking the Coral Ocean.

Traveller: Cathy Wagstaff
Room: Seaview Room
131/141 Esplanade, Cairns, Queensland
Date: December 2023
Price range: from AUD $266
Best for: Leisure travellers and families looking for a convenient seaside retreat

The showstopper

The 1000-square-metre lagoon pool features European-inspired cabanas, ideal for shading from the Queensland sun, while relishing the attentive poolside service. It also includes a lap pool and jacuzzi spa area and a private man-made beach making it a real feature of the property.

Lagoon pool © Crystalbrook Riley

Crystalbrook Riley location

Right in the heart of Cairns town on the Esplanade waterfront, Crystalbrook Riley is close to everything – walk to fine dining, cafes and bars, and to the wharf where the departures to the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island, and Green Island depart.

Crystalbrook Riley claim to fame

Step one foot into the open-plan lobby, and you’ll know you’re on holiday. With its timber-panelled ceilings and breezy vibe, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to a Miami beach club. The lobby is dotted with soft lounges that overlook the enticing lagoon pool.

Open-plan lobby © Crystalbrook Riley

My room – 537

My Seaview Room is in a fantastic location with spectacular views of the ocean and the misty mountains. These crystal clear waters of the stunning coastline sparkle as I take it all in from my balcony.

Décor is fresh and minimalist – knotted rope outdoor furniture, wooden accents, and neutral tones with splashes of blue accent the rooms – with a king bed and plush furnishings. A marbled bathroom features a rainforest shower (some rooms boast a bathtub with wall-to-ceiling window views). 

Amenity game

An Apple iPad acts as your concierge, and a 55” HD Smart TV hosts complimentary movies with Google Chromecast for your personal streaming. The minibar is filled with local treats from the Wondaree Roasted Macadamias from the Atherton Tablelands to the Kuranda cookies and wines like Pinot Grigio and Rose by ‘The Hidden Sea’, an eco brand with a commitment that for every bottle of wine sold, they will remove and recycle 10 plastic bottles from the ocean.

Hotel room with sea view
Seaview Room © Crystalbrook Riley

Green thumbs up

Check-in is swift and paperless, so you can forget about the usual plastic keys and hotel waste during your stay. I was handed a 100 percent recycled timber room key and whisked to my suite.

Sustainability is at the core of the Crystalbrook Collection, the first hospitality group in Australia to achieve 100 per cent waste-free bathrooms. Riley also incentivises carbon-free stays, is a paper-free resort – no brochures – and uses a convenient digital concierge with screens in the lobby for local attraction information.

The family factor

From the pool to the location and its interconnecting rooms, Crystalbrook Riley is great for friends and family groups. Book with the family and get complimentary access for kids three to 14 years of age to the Cairns Aquarium; one complimentary kids meal with one paying adult at Paper Crane or poolside; a kids pack on arrival; and over 200 free in-room movies with your own popcorn maker.

Beyond the rooms at Crystalbrook Riley

Rocco is the hotel’s – and Cairns’ highest – rooftop bar, boasting sweeping 270-degree views across Cairns and the Coral Sea. Come for sunset, their mezze-style menu, signature cocktails, and a stellar Champagne list. My pick: Morocco Mule, a fusion of chilli and cumin-infused blanco tequila, lavender, gingerbeer and mint. There is no better place to savour a drop as the sky bursts with flaming oranges and glowing pinks. 

Rocco – Cairns’ highest rooftop bar © Crystalbrook Riley

Within a short walk you can find

The best coffee at Barista Sistas at Rusty’s Market, Ramen at Ganbaranba on Spence Street, an incredible gin bar at Three Wolves or local craft beer at Coral Sea Brewing Company. For an excellent brunch, Caffiend on Grafton Street or Muddy’s on the Esplanade are both very close to Crystalbrook Riley.

Dish to dine for

Calypso Club is a specialty rum and seafood bar that celebrates the flavours of Far North Queensland using only fresh, local ingredients. The menu takes inspiration from Australian fish and chip shops and American crab shacks – my dish of choice was the Kingfish Sashimi. Or head to the theatrical Paper Crane for wok-fried seafood or the perfect steak.

It’s reassuring to know that over 80 per cent of the produce in Crystalbrook Riley’s restaurants comes from within a three-hour drive from the hotel. They also farm their own beef to ensure the highest levels of animal welfare.

Calypso Club © Crystalbrook Riley

Spa life

After a day of exploration, treat yourself to a little pampering at Eléme Spa. Its five treatment rooms are open to both guests and casual visitors, and each treatment is tailored. My one-hour relaxation massage with Sylvia was so good that I booked a second treatment during my stay. Post-massage, a glass of Jean Pierre Brut Champagne magically appeared in the relaxation room – pure bliss!

Staying in

Beyond the Eléme Spa, there is a 24-hour gym, the lagoon pool and private beach, Rocco’s rooftop and excellent dining.  

Electric are free for guests © Crystalbrook Riley

Stepping out

Take a ferry to Green Island or a full-day tour to the Great Barrier Reef. Other day trips go to Mossman Gorge and Frankland Islands. Electric bikes are available at the hotel and are free for guests. The biggest shopping mall, Cairns Central Shopping, is nearby on McLeod Street. There are plenty of eateries also on your doorstep.

I wish I could take home

The knotted rope chairs on the balcony which are wide, incredibly comfortable and perfect for meditation.

Insiders’ tips

Join Crystalbrook Crowd and save 20% on hotel bookings plus discounts on restaurants and bars. Book three- or five-night stays at Crystalbrook Riley and enjoy added extras, such as a trip to Green Island, a bottle of wine and late check-out.

V&T expert rating – Crystalbrook Riley

I am a little in love with Riley and Cairns; I was truly impressed. From the exceptional service to food and spa options, Crystalbrook Riley is a stay that won me over in uncovering the best of Cairns.

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