Cairns is incredibly backpacker friendly with its esplanade lined with bars, restaurants and a public swimming pool.
Surrounding the city there is outstanding natural beauty on all sides – do you prefer the beach, rainforest or gorges?
And boy, are Cairns backpackers in for a treat when it comes to hostels!
Shortcut for you:
- Bounce Cairns – best for female solo-travellers
- Gilligan’s Backpacker Hotel & Resort Cairns – best for solo-travellers
- Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront – best for party
We condensed it all to the 3 coolest ones. No need to do hours of research anymore!
This guide is perfect for YOU, when …
- tired of bad and crappy hostels
- want to avoid the “young party kids”
- happy to spend 1-2€ for a better experience
Keep scrolling to discover pure luxury, everyday party thrills and wonderful options for solo travellers and backpackers.
Hostelgeek Kelly spent some time in Cairns and has put together some top tips to help you make the best of your time.
Here are a couple of other Aussie articles you’ll love:
- 3 Best Hostels in Melbourne
- 3 Coolest Hostels in Sydney
- 3 best hostels in Alice Springs
- best hostels in Brisbane
Quick Introduction to Cairns Hostels
Average price for a bed: A bed in a dorm can be as cheap as 15€ up to 45€ per night. You see, there is quite a difference in pricing. There is a good reason; keep reading.
Check-In and Check Out: The average check-in time is from 15:00 (3pm), while the Check Out time is before 11:00 (11am). Hostels usually offer luggage storage in case you arrive earlier or leave later. Make sure you check if luggage storage is free or if there is an extra cost.
Who can stay: Many hostels in Cairns only accept international guests. It’s also quite common that hostels accept over 18s only. Check before you book.
Party Hostels: There is many party hostels in Cairns and Australia. Make sure you pick your right hostel type.
New to Hostels? Read our full hostel starter guide here. We especially recommend to read:
- How to book hostels (and websites to use)
- 23 items for the hostel packing list
- Are hostels safe? 13 safety tips for hostels
International backpackers only aged +18
3 Best Hostels in Cairns
Snorkel at the ready; let’s dive straight in!
The 3 best hostels in Cairns are:
- Bounce Cairns (formally The Northern Greenhouse)
- Gilligan’s Backpacker Hotel & Resort Cairns
- Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront
1. Bounce Cairns (one huge social space with a pool)
Take your shoes off at the door and make yourself at home at Bounce Cairns, formally known as The Northern Greenhouse.
This resort style hostel beams bright, big spaces that match the smile on staff faces.
Cairns backpackers will love this place – there’s a pool and a huge social hang-out area.
But you know; it’s not limited to backpackers. Female solo travellers will surely love the ladies-only-dormitories.
Every room (yes every) is labelled Deluxe. Why?
Well because you’ll have your very own en-suite bathroom and air-con, plus a private balcony or courtyard garden. Super cool!
The entire social space is joined together, creating a huge area to relax, cook, play games and get to know like-minded people.
What else makes Bounce Cairns awesome?
- The staff arranges day + night events
- Reception is 24/7
- Breakfast is free
- There’s an outdoor bar on-site
The bar is where you’ll find super cheap drinks and friendly vibes.
If you’re struggling to choose the perfect reef experience, pop into the tour desk and enquire – they’re keen to help you out!
Cairns Esplanade is but a 5-minute walk where everything you need is located. Easy.
Bounce Cairns is the best hostel in Cairns for:
- Female solo travellers
2. Gilligan’s Backpacker Hotel & Resort Cairns (party like never before)
You know that never-ending bucket list of yours? Well, it’s probably best that you add Gilligan’s Backpacker Hotel & Resort Cairns to it.
This hostel is all about the thrill-seeking traveller!
Forever trying to stay ahead of the rest, awesome new additions are always being added such as the latest unisex fitness centre.
Heck, we’re not sure where to start as Gilligan’s really does seem to have it all.
Let’s start by noting that THIS HOSTEL IS HUGE.
Choose between 6, 8 and 10-beds dorms which are both mixed and female only. Twin private and double deluxe rooms are also available.
- FREE airport transfer (between 8 am and 8 pm)!
- Ladies powder room w/ hair dryers
- Evening meals for just $10
Gilligans can definitely be described as buzzing. There are events held here every single night of the week!
Jelly wrestling, beer pong, clubs nights, wet T-shirt competitions, beer and pizza… it’s all happening here and more.
Note: If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep, ask about a room on the second floor.
It’s fair (and easy) to label this as a party hostel. Wait no; the BEST party hostel in Cairns and possibly Australia.
When you’re not partying; rest easy by the stunning lagoon swimming pool to recover ready for the next event…!
This pure entertainment venue hosts an open deck bar, huge outdoor pub screen and plenty of plasma TVs.
Looking for work? The staff will be able to assist you and help put money in your pocket.
The famous Rusty’s market is just around the corner alongside heaps of shops, cafes and clubs.
Gilligan’s Backpacker Hotel & Resort Cairns is the best hostel in Cairns for:
- Solo travellers
- Party animals
3. Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront (modern, chill vibes)
Our third hostel choice is built on a family atmosphere and was fully refurbished in 2017.
Welcome to Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront.
If you’re looking for bright, modern accommodation that is fun and affordable, look no further.
The deluxe private rooms here are perfect for travelling couples that love to socialise.
Forget privacy curtains for a minute; we love that Mad Monkey maintain the old bunk style.
You’ll still get a personal locker, USB port, linen and air-con so no comfort is jeopardised!
Mad Monkey actually has another hostel just 5-minutes away. Yet we chose Waterfront because we feel it offers a more relaxed vibe, with almost all the same inclusions.
Desperate for a swim? Access is granted for all the amenities in the sister hostel – there’s a pool awaiting you there.
Check out the excellent freebies:
- Ultra-fast WiFi
- Hot breakfast
- Large lockers (BYO padlock)
- Bicycle hire
- Local gym access
If you’re feeling sociable, join the Mad Family and check out the weekly events board. It changes constantly so it can never get boring!
Next, to the fully fitted kitchen, you’re free to chill out in the cinema and gaming area for a bit of downtime. Sometimes it’s just needed.
Once again the location is tip top right on the Cairns Esplanade. The public lagoon is your second swimming choice if you stay here – win!
Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront is the best hostel in Cairns for:
- Small groups
Best Hostel for Cairns Backpackers?
Looking to unload that heavy backpack, relax a little and join one or two sociable nights out?
Travellers Oasis is a cosy, home-from-home choice just off the Esplanade.
Picture lush tropical gardens, swimming pool, a BBQ during sunset, hammocks and outstanding staff poised ready to help with anything.
Awesome: you’ll find no bunk beds here and a maximum of 50 guests.
Psst! We’d hate for you to miss out if fully booked: Tropic Days is the sister hostel of Travellers Oasis and offers all of the same wonders.
Best Hostels in Cairns for Solo Travellers
Well it’s quite easy to make a few suggestions for the ‘best hostels in Cairns for solo travellers’.
It just depends on which vibe your aiming for!
- Best Party Hostel in Cairns: Gilligan’s Backpacker Hotel & Resort Cairns
- Best Relaxed vibes Hostel in Cairns: Travellers Oasis
- Best Hostel in Cairns for Female solo traveller: Bounce Cairns
- Best Backpacker Hostel in Cairns: Mad Monkey Backpackers (Sheridan St)
Honestly, after substantial research it seems most hostels in Cairns are built with the solo traveller in mind – great news for you.
Top Tips for Visiting Cairns
After spending some time in Cairns, Kelly put together some useful tips to help you make the best of your time in this tropical paradise.
Great Barrier Reef
No doubt this is one of the number one reasons you’re going to Cairns. Choosing a reputable company can be difficult when you’re faced with so many choices.
Scuba Diving: It’s well worth heading north to Port Douglas to dive off the reefs there. I personally dived with Quicksilver Dive and found the company to be safe, reliable and conscious of reef conservation.
Snorkelling: You needn’t swim too deep in order to see the beauty of the reef.
There’s this beautiful wooden pearl lugger called Falla Reef Trips that does daily tours from Cairns.
The renowned Captain, Doug, also offers volunteering opportunities for backpackers.
Surrounding Natural Beauty of Cairns
Sure, the city is packed full cool cafes and fun events, but you really should take the time to explore further afield – you won’t regret it.
Gorges, waterfalls, stunning beaches and excellent hiking trails await you.
Beautiful places I recommend are:
- Barron Falls
- Daintree Rainforest (oldest living rainforest in the world)
- Mossman Gorge
- Cape York
- Fitzroy Island
- Little Mulgrave National Park
Tip: consider renting a car to make all of these places more easily accessible.
Where are all the Beaches in Cairns?
It may or may not come as a shock when you arrive at Cairns only to find a busy estuary and narrow strip of sand. But fear not!
Against popular belief, stunning beaches are within easy reach of the city. Buddy up with fellow backpackers and share fuel costs – it’s a 25-minute drive to the nearest beach.
Make sure you visit:
- Trinity Beach (high chance of spotting Green Turtles near the rocks)
- Palm Cove Beach
- Clifton Beach
- Yorkey’s Knob
These are just some of the beaches locally known as the Northern Beaches. Staff at your hostel will help you get there.
Beware: This is Croc Country
Yep, you’re in Australia now and crocodiles are no joke.
Jellyfish, snakes, sharks – they’re all out to get you in Cairns!
But before we scare you too much, losing a leg is completely unavoidable as long as you play your cards right.
I don’t doubt your personal safety radar, but being surrounded by dangerous wildlife can be a little unnerving. Just make sure you…
- Always take notice of warning signs
- Never swim outside of designated areas unless told its safe
- Wear proper shoes when hiking to avoid snake bites
That is if you even see a potentially dangerous animal! It’s surprised me how little I saw little beasties so it’s easy to become nonchalant.
Nine times out of ten the animal doesn’t want to hurt you, so don’t give it any reason to do so. Keep your distance and think twice about that selfie with a crocodile.
Currently, we have no special hostel discounts in Cairns. We know, it’s a pity.
Subscribe to our newsletter in the meantime and await the newest discounts to hit your inbox.
We also do have a 35€ discount for Airbnb here.
Map of Hostel Locations + TOP Sights
This handy map is designed to make your life easier. Hostels, beaches, top sights – they’re all pinpointed for you.
The top things to do in Cairns include:
- Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
- Kuranda Scenic Railway
- Barron Falls
- Fitzroy Island
- Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
- Cairns Esplanade
- Cairns Esplanade Lagoon
- Birdworld Kuranda
- Daintree Rainforest
- Cairns Night Markets
- Rusty’s Markets
Not keen on renting a car? Take a 2-day Tabelands, Cape Tribulation & Daintree Tour.
There are many, many options for exploring the Great Barrier Reef here.
Flights to Cairns?
The airport is thankfully not too far from the centre of Cairns.
There is a regular shuttle bus running to and fro, as well as taxis and care hire. It will take about 15-minutes to get to Cairns central.
We enjoy Kiwi.com to find cheap flights all over Oceania including Cairns and Sydney.
This new website has super cool features like a so-called radius search. Just draw a circle over Europe and find the cheapest rates for the area.
Here is our review of Kiwi.
More epic hostels in Australia
Okay, now that we have covered Cairns hostels, there is more for you.
We wrote up big guide to the best hostels in Australia.
Find the coolest hostels in
- best hostels in Sydney
- coolest hostels in Melbourne
- best hostels in Alice Springs
- best hostels in Brisbane
Heading to central Australia? Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Alice Springs.
Over to you
So then, how do you like the Cairns hostels?
Perhaps something was left untouched or you’re left unsure.
Your question(s) will help me to understand what I have missed to mention. You will have your questions answered and will help make this article even more awesome.
Therefore, do not be shy, drop us a comment, we are keen to help you!
Last note: Our commitment
This is a genuine article to help you travel a bit smarter and find the best place on a budget! We ONLY recommend places we know you will enjoy, no matter what.
We will never recommend you any place we haven’t evaluated or are not convinced by. We only share with you places we also recommend to our best friends and family!
Enjoy this fine hostel selection and all 5 Star Hostels.
– – –
pin it for later
Your Smart Packing List
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality hostel, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate hostel packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.The most important things to pack are:
- eye mask
- key chain flashlight
- the right backpack, the Nomatic (our review of Nomatic here) or Lowe Alpine Lightflite 45 Pack
- packing cubes
- generic padlock (fitting all locker types)
- quick-dry travel towel
- universal power adapter
- travel-sized toiletries