The number one base for Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns brags all the tourist credentials to please the constant flow of energetic backpackers passing through. There’s no beach, but the Esplanade Lagoon and Pier Marina more than make up for one. We’ve rounded up the best hostels here – all with the mod cons to make your stay in Cairns, Australia, easy breezy.
Staying here goes way beyond bunking for the night. Gillian’s has three bars, a night club, a casual restaurant, a sports arena (with a full-size basketball court), a gaming room and a travel agency to book your next jaunt. Essentially, they’re set up to keep you entertained day and night. There are mixed dorms as well as private boutiquey rooms for a few dollars more. Throw in daily activities such as bingo, live music, pool parties, jelly wrestling, even pole dancing, and you’ll have yourself a very good time indeed.
This bright and newly refurbished hostel sits opposite Esplanade Lagoon and is just a short walk to Cairns pier and its twinkling rows of restaurants, cafes and bars next to Marlin Marina. You’ll get discount meal vouchers and free daily entertainment at Freedom Cairns, and the travel desk will arrange a Great Barrier Reef adventure on your behalf. Rooms have privacy screens and every bed has its own shelf, power point, light and USB charging station. Female-only dorms are available too.
It’s worth knowing the difference between a standard and basic dorm here – a reservation in the former will get you a thicker mattress and a bunkless bed. Single, double and twin rooms are available too – so you can always go private if your budget will allow it. All rooms have fans, but AC costs extra. They don’t have a bar, but you can chill your own booze in the fridge before the pool party kicks off. Next day, nurse your hangover in Hammock Central – and if it’s a Monday, it will only cost you $3 to finish the job with an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet.
This petite but palm-peppered hostel is all about good friendly vibes. The owner, Jiesa, runs a tight ship and always offers backpackers a warm welcome. You won’t find superdorms here, either – just three or four-bed dorms in addition to private rooms. The hostel has a swimming pool, high-speed wifi and a gaming area for lazy afternoons. On the flipside, you can also look forward to discounted adventures courtesy of the onsite tour office – and when you’re in the mood for a night out, take your pick of the pubs found nearby.
Located by the Esplanade waterfront, this budget-friendly option offers up epic seaside views and a kick-ass pool to enjoy them from. There’s a large common area for mingling, and friendly staff on hand to make suggestions on how to get the most out of your visit. It’s set in a quiet spot away from the thump of local nightlife, but you’re still only a 10-minute walk from all the action. Free airport shuttles make life easy if Cairns is the first or final stop of your trip.
A newbie to the hostel scene, Global Backpackers Cairns opened in 2019 in an impressive spot on the Esplanade opposite the lagoon, close to restaurants, bars and shops. Every one of the spotless rooms and mixed dorms come with air-conditioning and free wifi, while the communal rooftop deck and lounge is the perfect place to kick back on a beanbag with a cold beer before heading out to party.
The Mad Monkey hostel franchise has three outposts in Cairns, and this one is the pick of the lot if you’ve come for the view. Spread over two levels, it sits right on the Esplanade, close to cool cafes and late night bars. Once you’ve checked in, grab a cold beer at the bar and get to know a few of the other guests in the BBQ area, before heading out for the night. Next day, after a cool night’s sleep in your air-conditioned dorm or private room, wash away your sins with a dip in the famous blue lagoon just over the road.
For some budget-friendly options, discover our guide to the best cheap hotels in Cairns and book now on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.