Looking for a hotel in Cairns which has a wonderful swimming pool? Let me show you the flashiest and splashiest.

I have stayed in three of these four hotels myself and gave the pools a thorough workout. I visited the fourth for a good look (yes, I am a stickybeak) and it appeared very swimmable.

At the end of the post I’ll give my tips on booking these Cairns hotels.

I have my own biases and am definitely starting with my favourite Cairns hotel swimming pool, the gorgeous Riley Crystalbrook.

Riley Cairns, Crystalbrook Collection

Sunrise swimmers in the largest of the Riley’s three pools

The 5 star Riley has a 1000+ square metre swimming lagoon with three separate sections.

There’s a huge space nearest the ocean side which has the best poolside views and longest space to do laps.

Then there’s the family leisure pool, with a sandy beach area, great for families to play in and around. Parents – fear not – there are loungers right by the pool.

The third section has a dedicated 25 metre swimming lap if that is the length you prefer. There are loungers on the deck there too.

And, yes, there’s a massive bubbly spa pool too.

The 25m lap lane
The beach pool and lap pool from above

Book the Riley if you:

  • Are looking for sustainable luxury in a highly Instagrammable location
  • Are travelling as a family, this is a terrific hotel and the pool is great for kids of all ages
  • Want the best variety of hotel pools on offer in Cairns
  • Want to eat in a lot, there are three great restaurants and cafes at the Riley: Rocco, Paper Crane and Greenfields
  • Want the most sustainable option, rooms come with bamboo keys and large shampoo and conditioner bottles
  • Want to be right on the water, just cross the road to the long walkway by the beach and it’s just a minute or two to the gorgeous Lagoon Pool and Muddy’s Playground
  • Want to be close to the Wharf and Ferry Terminal, both are just a five minute walk
  • Prefer a large room with luxe fittings
  • Love access to free wifi and free bikes
  • Are interested in using the Eléme Spa

I stayed at the Riley for four nights for an Australian Society of Travel Writers convention and I absolutely adored the luxury and location. The healthy meals on offer are trendy, and absolutely terrific.

No need to BYO pool toys

The Novotel Cairns Oasis

Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort, picture provided as I just didn’t take such a good one myself!

The 4.5 star Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort has a large freeform lagoon pool with a fun swim-up bar and a sandy beach area the kids will love.

I stayed at this hotel with my four children when they were aged 7 – 16 years and we spent most of our time in the pool. It was here that I discovered the joy of lying on a lounger whilst the kids swam nearby – safe and secure. It was a solo mum holiday when their Dad was working overseas and this was probably the most relaxing part!

In the early mornings, I could swim some laps which I did really enjoy too.

Book the Novotel Cairns if you:

  • Are on holiday with the kids, all Novotels are super family-friendly
  • Prefer practical luxury over 5-star options
  • Do not mind being a street back from the waterfront promenade, yet still close to everything
  • Are an Accor member and like the offers that come with that

You can read my family review of the Novotel Cairns over on Hello Sydney Kids here.

The Hilton Cairns

The 50m undulating pool at the Hilton Cairns

I stayed at the Hilton Cairns for two nights last year. I hadn’t stayed on that side of town before and was keen to try out one of the 5-star hotels right beside the Cairns Esplanade Reef Fleet Terminal. There are plenty of cool places nearby and, of course, you could not be closer to the Great Barrier Reef trips.

The swimming pool at the Cairns Hilton is a 50m long, 10 – 15m wide rippling snake. Yet you can still do some 50m laps, in a wriggly kind of way. There were no people using it when I was there and I did quite a few laps in my own slow and steady way.

It shouts ‘resort pool’ and has plenty of loungers for lounging. It also has a large spa pool.

Book the Hilton Cairns if you:

  • Will be going out to the reef a lot and want a short walk to the boats; this is good for divers
  • Are joining a cruise, it’s close to where the ships dock
  • Need to do some work, there are desks in rooms and the hotel has a business centre
  • Like to walk, there’s a walkway going south along Chinaman Creek where you’ll find a cool playground, beautiful artwork, Wharf One Cafe and the spacious and on-trend Hemingways Brewery
  • Are a gin fiend; check out the Gin Social Bar
  • Want to grab brekkie at Cafe Sunrise or head to Mondo On The Waterfront for lunch and dinner. (But I must say the food options are much better at Rileys.)
Cool pool at the Cairns Hilton

The Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina, Cairns

The pools at the Shangri-La Cairns

Just across the road from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal you will find the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel. This is a large hotel and it has a large pool complex too, up on the roof. You’ll find a spacious leisure pool, terrific for doing laps when not busy, plus a large spa and a shallow children’s wading pool. The manager told me that the main pool is 24m by 9m, but I must say that it looked bigger than that to me. I’ll have to return with a tape measure.

The super central location is also a big plus.

Book the Shangri-La Cairns if you:

  • Need to be very close to all the joys of the Reef Fleet Terminal and the Marlin Marina
  • Prefer larger sized rooms and a balcony, which all rooms have
  • Want to be just a short walk from the city centre
  • Like a wide range of places to eat, the Shangri-La has four restaurants and bars. There is also the adjoining Pier complex, with even more restaurants and cafes.

Booking Cairns Hotels With Great Pools

I always recommend having a look at one of the hotel booking websites, just to see what is available when you wish to travel and how prices compare.

I like to check out Hotels Combined and Booking.com when I start researching. You will find all four hotels mentioned here on these sites.

Save on your hotel - hotelscombined.com


It always makes sense to book direct with the hotel if I need to ask any particular questions, or if I am a member of the rewards program.

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask? Just fire away in the comments and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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