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Cheap Scuba Diving for Backpackers in Cairns

Updated Mon 12 Sep 2022

Two backpackers in scuba gear underwater looking at the camera

Scuba Dive in Cairns & Explore the Outer Reef beneath the surface

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Cairns is the portal to some of the best scuba diving spots in Australia. And what better place to learn to dive than the Great Barrier Reef? This underwater playground has a reputation for being one of Australia’s most magnificent natural beauties and is the first reef ecosystem to be recognised by UNESCO as a world-heritage wonder.

Any scuba diver who has had the privilege of exploring the world’s largest collection of coral reefs will know it’s worthy of these titles, but what are the best ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns and Port Douglas? And, more importantly for backpackers, what is the cheapest scuba diving course in Cairns?

Whether you’re learning to dive and want to get certified, or you’re embarking on your umteenth advanced dive, there is an abundance of affordable options in far-north Queensland for backpackers on a budget!

Person scuba diving in the ocean with legs crossed

Best scuba diving courses for beginners (get certified)

Divers Den 4-Day Budget Open Water Course

As one of the cheapest options in Cairns, Divers Den offers an inclusive four-day course that will have you certified in no time! Coming in at about $200 a day, let experienced experts guide, teach and certify you without the price tag! 

  • Earn PADI Open Water Certification
  • Chance to do up to five dives on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Two pool training days
  • Two separate day trips

Pro Dive 5-Day, 2-night liveaboard PADI Open Water Course

Another excellent dive course at excellent value, spend five days learning about the diving basics. With two nights of at-sea accommodation and meals, immerse yourself and save on this PADI open water course.

  • 2 days of pool and theory
  • 3 days, 2-night live-aboard including meals, linen and accommodation
  • 9 dives (4 training dives and 5 pleasure dives - including one night dive!)
  • PADI Gold Open Water Certificate and PADI Open Water Manual

Divers Den 4-day Liveaboard Open Water Course

This flexible course allows you to choose how long you spend sleeping out at sea as you complete your PADI Open Water Certificate. With two days of classroom learning, and either one or two nights aboard a state-of-the-art reef liveaboard vessel, it never has been so easy to become a qualified scuba diver.

  • Earn your PADI Open Water Certificate (18m)
  • Two days of classroom learning
  • 1 or 2 nights on OceanQuest Liveaboard vessel 
  • Heated, covered pool

Divers Den E-Learn Open Water 3-day Course

The perfect choice for backpackers in Cairns for a short period of time, do your classroom learning component online, leaving time to optimise reef dives and hands-on learning once you arrive in Cairns. A cheaper and practical option, learn remotely and dive in the Great Barrier Reef like a pro! 

  • Great if you're short on time
  • Spend some of your time learning on your own with the e-learn portion
  • 1 day spent doing pool theory
  • 2 reef day trips to complete all your diving

Instructor on boat with pen behind ear presenting a saftey brief

Best scuba diving courses for advanced divers (get advanced certifications and specialise)

Divers Den Advanced PADI Open Water Liveaboard (2 or 3 Days)

Earn your PADI Advanced Cert on board a liveaboard boat! Combining accommodation, learning and an array of specialised learning opportunities, dive deeper into the wondrous world of the Great Barrier Reef as an advanced diver.

  • Five dives include navigation dive, night dive, deep dive, peak performance buoyancy dive plus one additional dive
  • Choose from an advanced boat dive, search and recovery dive, naturalist dive, photography dive and AWARE Fish identification dive 
  • Includes accommodation on a Great Barrier Reef boat.

Shark underwater in the reef surrounded by coral and fish

Cheap Day Boats with Scuba Diving in Cairns

Many vessels and tours offer day-dives, with tutelage, gear hire and supervision by experienced divers included! Introductory and advanced dives are generally offered at an extra cost. These tours are the perfect options for those looking to soak in the wonder of Cairns and the Reef while spending a portion of your day diving deep into the marvels of this underwater paradise!

Passions Of Paradise

Departs 8:00 am
Returns 5:00 pm

Adventurous day-sail aboard a modern catamaran with a free intro to scuba. With speed, comfort and inclusive extras, this eco-experience will show you the best of the reef. Enjoy a free 10-minute introduction to scuba-diving, with certified and introductory dives offered at an additional cost (pre-booking required).

  • Eco-certified operator
  • Free 10-minute in-water introduction to scuba diving
  • Freshly prepared buffet lunch: hot and cold buffet meats, salads, prawns and fresh tropical fruit
  • Morning and afternoon tea included
  • Marine life presentation by eco-certified guides

passions of paradise coral dive

Ocean Freedom

Departs 8:30 am
Returns 4:15 pm

Day tour to Outer the Reef with incredible underwater experiences. Visiting Upolu Reef and Upolu Cay, dive in for one or two introductory or certified dives. With awesome visibility and incredible coral walls, make sure to book your dives in advance and explore pad arise! 

  • Max Group Size 75
  • Snorkel and dive experience on the Outer Edge of Upolu Reef
  • Informative glass bottom boat tour
  • Scrumptious seafood smorgasbord lunch including smoked salmon and prawns, with tea and coffee all-day

Couple scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef


Departs 8:00 am
Returns 4:30 pm

A grand catamaran day tour to the Outer Reef, Evolution is a fantastic vessel for diving. With ample space and smooth cruising, explore Norman, Saxon and Hastings reefs. Choose to snorkel or dive, with intro and certified dives available for pre-booking at an additional price.

  • 35-metre superyacht
  • BBQ buffet lunch onboard: fresh fish, steak, a variety of salads, and prawns
  • Locally owned and operated company for over 30 years
  • Introductory or certified dives available

Scuba gear with suits close up on SCUBA logo

Reef Daytripper

Departs 7:45 am
Returns 4:30 pm

Reef Daytripper will take you Upolu Reef and other corners of the Outer Great Barrier Reef, home to giant clams, starfish, turtles and expansive corals. Both certified and introductory dives are offered with pre-booking required.

  • Max group size of 20
  • Complimentary guided snorkel tour provided
  • Dive guide provided at no extra charge
  • Free catered lunch along with teas and coffees
  • Eco-friendly tour with a low carbon footprint
  • Unlimited snorkelling

Turtle swimming in the reef


Departs 8:30 am
Returns 4:30 pm

A spacious 29-metre-high-speed catamaran is the fastest dive catamaran in Cairns! Visit Flynn, Pellowe, Milln and/or Thetford Reefs with up to three certified or two introductory dives. With optimised time out amongst divine corals and friendly marine life, pre-book your dives with Silverswift.

  • Diver's choice with 5 hours on the reef
  • Experience more with visits to 3 different Outer Great Barrier Reef sites
  • Buffet lunch, plus morning and afternoon tea

Silverswift Underwater scuba shot of reefs and fish

Who are the best dive providers in Cairns?

Pro Dive Cairns

Pro dive is a premier scuba diving school and outer reef liveaboard dive operator since 1983. With all levels of diver training available, from beginner to professional, learn how to dive properly whatever your experience is! Pro Dive offers multi-day courses and dive trips as well as retail sales of dive, snorkel and water sports equipment.

Pro Dive boasts 5 Star PADI Training and Instructor Development Centre providing the highest standards of dive education and training facilities available. All dive courses and liveaboard trips are accredited with Advanced Ecotourism Certification, as your experienced skippers and instructors choose from 19 exclusive dive sites situated in some of the best Outer Great Barrier Reef locations from Cairns.

Pro Dive scuba diver underwater

Divers Den

Divers Den are a world-class snorkel and dive adventure, operating since 1974. Renowned as a five-star PADI training centre, Divers Den is the longest-established Cairns diving and snorkelling company. Having certified over 150,000 divers, they know the ins and outs of teaching every student. 

Offering courses for complete beginners to lead into a diving career, they facilitate day trips, overnight trips and a 5-star PADI Dive School. All of their tours are accredited under Ecotourism Australia’s Advanced Ecotourism Certificate, as they take students out on purpose-built vessels for diving and snorkelling with state-of-the-art equipment all included.

Scuba divers in the Great Barrier Reef

For you avid divers, check out our handy guide to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the best reefs for diving in Cairns

Happy diving, and for any more questions regarding dive tours, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our scuba-loving travel agents via live chat

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