Affordable and Budget Accommodation in Cairns

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There is some great budget accommodation in Cairns so it is possible to have a holiday with facilities like a nice pool and comfortable, clean room at a more affordable price than the big luxury resorts!

However budget/cheap accommodation can mean different things to different people, so this guide is to help you find resorts and hotels where you will still get a great holiday at a more affordable price (not find the cheapest dump of a hotel)!

$ – Budget pricing (for the type of accommodation)

$-$$ A bit higher than budget when booked in advance, but maybe a lot more last minute

Budget Accommodation in Cairns City

Cairns has some great value affordable resorts (lower style buildings with larger pools and gardens) which are predominantly a short drive out of town (4-5km or so). Cairns has Uber and taxis so this is the best way to get a bit of both relaxing resort time and still being close to Cairns to visit and go on reef trips.

If you prefer an option that is a short walk to Cairns centre, you will need to consider a hotel with a more traditional pool or do what I did on my days off (when working on a nearby island) and book a private room in a backpackers close to the massive free public swimming lagoon on the Cairns foreshore.

Alternatively, areas like Palm Cove have more choices of resort style accommodation that is walking distance to nearby restaurants, bars and cafes.

They are not as cheap as the cairns resorts but still more affordable than the expensive resorts in Cairns. You could stay in Palm Cove the entire trip if you predominantly just want to relax (some reef trips and tours will pick you up), or split your stay getting a hotel close to everything in Cairns and a resort with a great pool walking distance to restaurants in northern beaches/Palm Cove or Port Douglas.

And remember, resorts are busy in Australia post covid so generally now the further in advance you book the more likely affordable room types will still be available – not much is cheap 3 weeks from winter school holidays!

Affordable Cairns Resorts

Cairns Colonial Club Resort – $

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  • 3 Lagoon Pools (1 with sandy beach)
  • Big open-air onsite restaurant open for breakfast, lunch & dinner
  • Free Parking is great for those with a car to explore
  • Great choice if you are happy to relax at the resort or jump on tours and buses to explore
  • Not suitable if you want a short walk to town

A long-time popular choice for those looking for a cheaper resort in Cairns, Cairns Colonial Club (booking.com) has everything you need for a budget tropical resort holiday with both a lush resort pool as well as an onsite restaurant and bar.

There are studio rooms for solo and couple travellers, while families will love the affordable studio quad room with 2 King Splits (both beds can be a king or two singles) with a privacy divider for the kids bed so you can sit up late at night.*

*There is also a Family Studio Option with a completely separate bedroom however in this choice you would need to either have adults sleep on fold-out couches if sitting up late or move the kids to the fold-out bed when you are ready to sleep.

The quad rooms also offer an affordable option for friends to have separate sleeping areas without someone on a fold-out bed, though access to the bathroom is shared through one area (good if you need at least a little separation from someone like me who snores haha)

Keep in mind while the resort is 4-star, some of the more budget-unrenovated room options are not as fancy however they are very appropriately priced, often just a touch more than a private hostel room but a much more private standard with all the facilities of a resort!

Palm Royal Cairns – $

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  • Two huge tropical swimming pools ( a lagoon and a large lap pool)
  • All rooms have balconies looking over the pool or garden
  • Free Parking so great for those with a car to explore
  • Also an excellent budget choice if you are happy to relax at the resort or jump on tours/buses to explore
  • Not suitable if you want a short walk to town

Cairns Gateway Resort – $

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  • Tropical lagoon-style pool
  • Free parking good for road trips or rental cars
  • 5 Acres of gardens for a spacious feeling
  • Bus stops a short walk away
  • Not suitable if you want a short walk to town

Cairns Gateway is a budget resort with plenty of reviews saying it is clean and comfortable and great for money. In fact, when you book in advance, its often less than $100 a night, making it an affordable way to explore the Cairns region or have a break from camping on a long road trip and cheaper than some private hostel rooms.


Affordable Cairns Self-Contained Accommodation

Self-contained accommodation is a great option if you want to cook for yourself on holidays or want a bit more space such as for kids to play or separate bedrooms so you can sit up later at night.

Though do keep in mind it’s often more expensive for apartments than hotel rooms so couples and singles will need to weigh up if you are saving enough money to warrant missing out on eating out (which is one of the things I love about holidays).

Koala Court Holiday Apartments – $-$$

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  • Affordable 2 & 3 bedroom apartments for families
  • Spacious size rooms
  • Full kitchen to cook for families and groups
  • Laundry facilities – great for drying bathers and towels even if you don’t plan on washing
  • Not suitable if you want a short walk to town

Family-friendly apartments disappear quickly in winter in Cairns however when booked in advance Koala Court offers an affordable choice for larger families who want separate bedrooms and to be able to self-cater. Great value for money for the 2 and 3 bedroom apartments when compared to other options in town.

Southern Cross Atrium Apartments $-$$

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  • Affordable for studio or 1-bedroom apartments
  • Big tropical pool
  • Walking distance to Cairns Central Shopping Centre
  • Good base for exploring the region on a longer stay
  • Free carpark

These centrally located apartments are best value for solo and couple travellers looking to be in the heart of Cairns. They book out a long way in advance (winter is heavily booked by January) and seem to have dynamic pricing where rooms go up when there is few left so get in early for cheaper room options.

Studio apartments offer the best of both worlds, affordable accommodation within walking distance to restaurants with a kitchenette with stovetop, microwave and toaster giving you the option to self cater some meals of the day.

Affordable Cairns Hotels

Coral Tree Inn – $-$$

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  • Great location within walking distance from many of Cairns attractions (350m-1.4km approximately)
  • Tropical landscaped traditional style rectangle pool
  • Clean, Bright and light-style rooms
  • BBQ area

This budget 3.5 star hotel has received a trip advisor 2022 Travellers Choice award for consistently providing a comfortable stay for guests who think its great value for money in a convenient location. While it’s not smack bang in the CBD it’s only a short walk away (the Aquairum is 350m, The Esplandade 550m and the lagoon pool 1.4km) and rooms can be substantially cheaper than many other options.


The Benson Hotel Cairns – $-$$

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  • Centrally located in the Cairns CBD – walk everywhere
  • Roof top pool deck part way up hotel
  • Freshly renovated or refreshed* room options
  • Onsite restaurant for breakfast & dinner + rooftop style bar for drinks
  • Like most city hotels, expect more street and function noise than out of town options.

Previously the 2nd rydges property in town, The Benson was given a fun modern ‘gatsby’ vibe renovation to its communual areas, as well as ‘Gold’ rooms fully renovated in 2022 and the Bronze and Silver rooms refreshed* in 2021.

Its in an excellent location walking distance from everything in the CBD like the markets, foreshore and reef terminal and its always convenient having a hotel bar to have ‘just one more drink’ at before returning to your room.

Book in advance to get this hotel at a more budget price, 5 months out from winter it was just $135 per night on a 2 night stay which is great value this close to the CBD.

*Refreshed/refurbished varies but usually means all the soft furnishings like carpets, bedspreads, curtains and sometimes some pieces of furniture and/or fittings like taps or lamps but not completely gutted bathrooms or built in fittings/structural like walls.


Affordable Cairns Private Backpackers Room

One of the great things about Cairns is that when you stay in town close to the esplanade you don’t actually have to have accommodation with a pool because you are within walking distance of the lagoon!

This means some of the highly rated backpackers in town can be a great option for affordable accommodation close to all the action.

This was my budget accommodation of choice when I worked in hospitality on a nearby island. I personally prefer to stay in a private room in a highly rated hostel than a room in a very crappy hotel.

Hostels can be a little louder than a hotel but their often also much more social, with the option to meet other travellers in communal areas if you choose to or if you get mad social anxiety in group situations like I do you can just stick to yourself and chill in your room when your not exploring.

The huge free cairns lagoon pool surrounded by Palm Trees is close to budget accommodation in cairns.
The huge free Cairns Lagoon makes staying in budget accommodation in Cairns without a pool a viable cheap option

Global Backpackers in Cairns – $

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  • Across the road from the Lagoon Pool
  • In the heart of Cairns right on the Esplanade
  • Opened in 2019 so everything is nice and new
  • Communal deck with great filtered water and mountain views

With one of the best locations in town, a private room in this newly built hostel is a cheap way to stay in the heart of Cairns city when you are travelling on a budget but still want a quality private room with your own bathroom. Keep in mind hostels are social places, guests may be up late enjoying a drink in communal spaces.

Mad Monkey Backpackers Waterfront

  • Across the road from the Lagoon Pool
  • Clean and comfortable small budget room with airconditioning
  • Walk to everything in Cairns CBD
  • Affordable private room option for solo travellers to Cairns
  • No private bathroom option (but cheaper because of that)

Mad Monkey Backpackers is in an excellent location on the waterfront in an older-style building.

If you are on a tight budget (but want your own space to sleep) a private room in this hostel with a shared bathroom is a great value way to stay in the heart of cairns on the esplanade, saving you around $40 a night compared to Global for being willing to share a bathroom.


There are actually loads of great hostel options in Cairns, but the above are in the best location for the lagoon and reef trips.

If your looking to stay in a party hostel with a comfortable private room check out Gilligans and book a Hotel King Room – just be prepared for plenty of noise or alternatively the Cairns Central YHA for a more relaxing experience but still with its own private pool.

Visit Hostelworld to compare all the backpacker options in Cairns.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to stay in Cairns or Palm Cove

Palm Cove, is a relaxed but busy beach town with predominantly low rise resorts. It has a permanent population of around 2500 but is really much bigger when you count tourists, so it has plenty of restaurants, cafes & bars.

Cairns is a city of over 150,000 people with predominantly higher hotel style accommodation with some resorts, has plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes and is also the hub from which many of the reef trips and day tours depart.

You can still catch tours and do some reef trips from Palm Cove without a car as some companies offer the option to be picked up from Palm Cove for an extra fee or can drive yourself back to cairns for any of them if you have your own vehicle.

Of course, you always have the option of splitting your holiday between more than one destination if you are on a longer trip. This will enable you to choose the best accommodation for your needs in both spots rather than compromising and not truly getting either.

If you are really looking to relax and spend a lot of time around the pool it’s most important to pick the kind of accommodation that will give you that experience.


Cairns Tours

There so much to do in this region if you are keen to get out an explore, with tours leaving from Cairns, Northern Beaches & Port Douglas. Visit the rainforest, spot crocodiles and snorkel the Great Barrier reef is just the beginning of what is available.

See local tours on Viator

Viator is owned by booking.com and collates and books tours and transfers from all different local companies.

Tours open in Viator

See local tours on Get your Guide

Tours open in Get your Guide

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