Cali is most recognized for its upbeat mood, burgeoning economy, and thriving nightlife scene. Known as the “Salsa Capital” of the world because of the many street parties and dances, her 2 million residents love having a good time to the beat of these captivating rhythms. She continues to captivate tourists with her unique cultural heritage, so if you are searching for a vibrant urban lifestyle, Cali fits the bill. Cali is a big, bustling city, so you’ll want to plan ahead – here are the best things to do in Cali Colombia.
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Where to Stay in Cali
There are a host of places to stay in Cali – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Cali, mid-range places to stay in Cali, and budget accommodation in Cali.
Alko Hotel Casa Nispero, Cali: The Alko Hotel Casa Nispero is conveniently located in the center of Cali. This five-star Cali hotel includes rooms with a coffee machine, a private bathroom with a shower and bathrobes, a mini-bar, a balcony, and air-conditioning, while other units also include a kitchenette with a dishwasher. This top hotel in Cali provides continental breakfast in an outdoor dining area or you can enjoy them at their bar/lounge area. Cali’s Alko Hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a sun terrace, and a garden. This great hotel in Cali also provides services such as massages, and daily cleaning. Cali’s Alko Hotel Casa Nispero is a fantastic place to stay in Cali. See rates and availability here.
Casa Ruta Sur, Cali: Cali’sCasa Ruta Sur is located just a five-minute walk away from the historical district of Cali. The Casa Ruta Sur is a 10-room accommodation that includes a flat-screen TV, a shared kitchen, a private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries, a wardrobe, and daily fresh linen. This mid-range Cali hotel offers a continental breakfast coupled with tropical fruits and Colombian coffee. The Casa Ruta Sur in Cali also has a shared kitchen with a microwave, fridge, toaster, and a dining area both indoors and outdoor, a sun terrace, a patio, and a garden. Casa Ruta Sur can also provide cultural Cali experiences that include classes about local culture, bike, and walking tours, pub crawls, and evening entertainment all with additional charges. Casa Ruta Sur is a great mid-range accommodation to stay at in Cali. Check room rates and availability at Casa Ruta Sur here.
Moonshine Boutique Hostel, Cali: The Moonshine Boutique Hostel is located within Cali, ideally surrounded by some great attractions. The rooms in this budget Cali hostel are equipped with a private bathroom with a hot shower, clean sheets, a fridge, kitchen items, and in some units, conventional ovens and gas stoves. This Cali budget hostel also provides laundry services, breakfast by request, and private salsa classes. Cali’s Moonshine Boutique Hostel is a budget-friendly accommodation perfect for traveling to Cali. Want to know more about the Moonshine Boutique Hostel, check here.
The Best Things to do in Cali
She is the third-largest city in Colombia and is full of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique flavor. Although she has a bad reputation for crime, she really is a bustling and exciting city that’s relatively safe. There are not many tourist attractions, but there’s enough to see and experience in terms of culture, cuisine, neighborhoods, and nightlife to keep you entertained. This is a place where you come to experience local life. So if you are passing through and want to see what this lively city has to offer, here are some fantastic activities that will make your time in Cali worthwhile.
Take a free walking tour of Cali, Colombia
If you truly want to get the most out of this city, we recommend that you join one of the free walking tours. We’ve taken walking tours throughout Colombia (the one in Medellin is amazing ) and this one is also great. The enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides will take you to Cali’s natural and architectural wonders, including museums, parks, squares, cathedrals, monuments, and landmarks – all of which are worth seeing.
The tour will help you learn about Cali through the eyes of a local expert, see the most important sites, and sample local cuisine and beverages, enabling you to thoroughly indulge yourself in the Cali culture and discover its hidden jewels.
It starts from the colonial-style neighborhood of San Antonio toward the historical center dedicated to famous figures from the country’s past. No doubt, this tour will broaden your understanding of Cali’s history and the events that helped form it into a lovely city today. You can book a spot on it here. The tour leaves at 1000 every day apart from Sunday. You will need to reserve a place, but the tour is tip based.
If you’re reading this on public WiFi and plan to book a trip, a walking tour, or accommodation, then check out my guide to the best VPNs for Colombia and why (and how you should protect your personal login details).
Take a Salsa Dancing Class in Cali
Salsa dancing is one of the top things to do in Cali (and maybe South America). We think you are losing out if you do not dance in Cali – this beautiful city lives and breathes it. The cheerful music is heard all around town so learn to dance or wing it while you’re there.
Cali has hundreds of salsa schools, and some of its more prominent schools include Joy Dance and Salsa Pura. You can also try Zaperoco, Tin Tin Deo, and La Topa Tolondra for an authentic salsa experience. The daily group sessions range from 5,000 pesos and individual lessons for 50,000 pesos, although many hostels provide free albeit basic salsa classes. You can also join a city tour that provides some basic introduction to salsa here.
Go Salsa Dancing in Cali
Taking dancing classes is just the beginning; you’ll want to put everything you’ve learned to the test on the dance floor. Every night of the week, you’ll be able to discover salsa clubs and several discotecas where you may experience the city’s vibrant nightlife.
We highly recommend The La Topa Tolondra if you’re just in Colombia for a few days. It’s the town’s most popular salsa bar, and it’ll offer you a taste of Cali, Colombia. You can also check out my “honourable mention” salsa clubs—Zaperoco, Tin Tin Deo, MalaMaa, and Salsa al Parque (“Salsa in the Park” – a monthly event)—if you have more time.
But remember that at 4 am, all nightclubs inside the city borders are closed. If you want to party till the wee small hours of the morning, you can travel beyond the city to Menga or Juanchito. However, we recommend avoiding these regions unless a Colombian accompanies you to help you avoid sketchy areas.
If you want to take a tour of Cali and her nightspots with a local, then try this – you’ll get to visit some great places with no hassle.
Visit Delirio in Cali Colombia
Whether you’re a salsa fanatic or just want to watch other people dance, consider making a reservation to see Delirio, Cali’s world-famous salsa circus. The spectacle is worth the money, which costs 115,000 – 240,000 pesos depending on your seat.
These dancers have performed all around the globe, so schedule your vacation around one of their performances. The shows are a mix of music, dance, and Cirque du Soleil with a cabaret twist. The salsa dancers are excellent – both youngsters and adults dancing at the greatest level since they have grown up dancing in Cali’s best salsa schools.
Visit the Cat Park in Cali (Gato de Tejada)
Another thing that we recommend is to go to Cali’s Cat Park. As soon as you arrive in Cali, you will likely discover a slew of cat statues, paintings, and souvenirs strewn throughout the city. This park, which is a fairly odd attraction, pays homage to the great Colombian artist Hernando Tejada, who is credited with creating the iconic center sculpture of a cat. The artist, who unfortunately passed away just a few years later, inspired a group of local artists to create an additional 15 feline monuments in his memory. If you don’t want to visit independently, then grab a spot on this tour and get to see the Gatos here.
The city of Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia is also famous for cats, (as Kuching means cat in local language) check it out here.
Take a Street Food Tour in Cali
If you love to travel and experience local cuisine, we suggest taking a street food tour where it gives you a real taste of Cali through its local food and drinks.
It starts with a walk in the city’s streets, discovering amazing street art, and concludes in the night market, where tourists taste various foods and beverages such as Chontaduro, Lulada, Ceviche Colombiano, and much more. Reserve your place here.
Visit Capilla La Ermita
The beautiful neo-Gothic style church was built in 1930 and completed in 1948 when the building started. Dutch windows, French church bells, Italian marble, and German cathedral influence are all included in the design. Despite its small size, it’s tough to ignore its dazzling white exterior. In fact, it is the most famous church in the city of Cali because of its stunning architectural design. It’s a glorious church and well worth visiting – check it out on this trip.
Take a city tour of Cali
Cali boasts several museums, parks, squares, churches, monuments, and vistas to explore. Joining the Cali City Tour enables you to see the city quickly and easily without waiting for buses or getting confused with maps. At each stop, the local guides will show you the prestigious sites, where you can learn about the city’s history, snap photographs, and enjoy the lovely weather while sampling local beverages, fruits, and sweets. Near the end of the tour, you’ll get to learn some basic salsa moves and experience the salsa Calea for an unforgettable experience. Enjoy a local drink, get to know salsa and learn some of the moves and explore Cali with a small group here.
Walk up to Cristo Rey in Cali
While not as renowned as Christ the Redeemer in Rio, this 26-meter-high statue of Christ is worth visiting for its beautiful view, so don’t forget to bring your camera.
Cerro de Los Cristales may be chilly, so bring a sweater and bug spray, too, and there are merchants set up along the course if ever you need a snack or a drink. This trip is also ideal to combine with the Andoke Mariposario tour, where you can enjoy a magnificent butterfly garden up the road from El Cristo Rey. If you don’t want to do this independently, then this tour combines both walking up to Cristo Rey AND the Andoke Butterfly tour.
Visit Parque Artesanal Loma de la Cruz
The Parque Artesanal Loma de la Cruz is a great spot to experience the local Cali feel while shopping. You can buy handicrafts from craftsmen who may be crafting them right in front of you in the park for a low price.
There are also several affordable pubs and restaurants around where you can get a bite or a drink while you shop or wander. Entertainment includes anything from salsa dance to live music to storytelling to guinea pig gambling at night.
Hike to the Cerro de las Tres Cruces
If you love hiking but have a limited time, this route is for you. The trek up Cerro de Las Tres Cruces (Three Cross Hill) to a spectacular vista takes less than an hour, and it is well worth it. And the greatest thing is that the climb can be started from anywhere in the city.
I suggest beginning your climb between 5:30 am, and 7 am on a weekday morning since this is the time of day when the most people are on the route. And when it comes to trekking in Colombia, the golden rule is to stick with a group to ensure your safety. If you go during the day, it will be very hot and lonely; plus, it’s not the safest course of action.
Another alternative is to hike with a group of people during nighttime. These groups depart from the Pacific Mall around 7 pm and start the climb with the assistance of police officers for 3,000 pesos.
Hang out in the Plaza de Cayzedo
There is another place to visit when in Cali – the Plaza de Cayzedo, a palm tree-lined plaza that serves as the city’s focal point and a terrific site to watch people. While admiring the government buildings and national landmarks, you could also sample some street cuisine to avoid the crowd.
Here you can admire the neoclassical architecture of the Palacio Nacional, San Pedro Cathedral, and Edificio Otero while sipping on a coffee. In addition to residents and visitors, you’ll see lottery ticket sellers, shoe shiners, shady individuals, well-dressed professionals, and street vendors, among other types.
Visit Andoke – the Butterfly Farm
This massive butterfly farm, located just outside of the city, is an unknown treasure home to over 15 beautiful technicoloured varieties. At the same time, experienced guides describe the life cycles of these fascinating creatures—from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly—as they pass by them. Its a lovely day out – and you can get to the butterfly farm here
Play Tejo in Cali
Tejo is the national sport of Colombia, and we were so lucky that we got to play. Consider shuffleboard or petanque, but with explosives and booze instead of balls and clubs.
The way it works is that a group of friends is separated into teams, and the goal is to throw a metallic disk underhand into a clay bed and land your metallic disk in the middle of the target or strike a mecha so that the mecha explodes.
To be honest, I was feeling a bit uneasy about the whole dynamite thing, when I first played Tejo in Salento (you can read more about learning to play Tejo here)
However, it turns out that the explosion was just a minor one, and I really got to enjoy playing it. Another critical requirement is that a drink from the team members must follow each throw. The national liquor of Colombia is aguardiente, a sugarcane-based alcoholic beverage that, unlike beer and wine, has the unique and delightful quality of not causing us a headache after drinking it.
Visit the Museums of Cali
Cali, Colombia, may not have many tourist attractions, but it does have a good number of museums. You can check out the following while in Cali:
Museo Aereo Fenix
There is a museum dedicated to World War II-era aircraft in Cali, and you can find an exhibit of planes, engines, and flight suits as part of the museum’s significant aviation collection.
An operable Douglas C-47B and North American AT-6D are among the highlights of the display. There are also steam locomotives and miniature replicas of rail lines utilized in the 20th century on display, and Ford and Buick models going back to the 1940s. The museum is open to the public from 8 am to 4:30 pm daily.
The Salsa Museum
Founded in 1968 by official salsa photographer Carlos Alfredo Molina, the Museum of Salsa is regarded as the world’s oldest salsa museum. Sixty of the world’s most notable graphic works are displayed in the collection. Additionally, they have artefacts relating to the history of salsa from many musicians that travelled through Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Colombia.
Museo de la Cana de Azucar
Museo de la Cana de Azucar, a local museum that details the history and procedures of sugar cane growing, is a great place to learn about the region’s agricultural legacy. The tour starts at 9 am, where you’ll be taken on a guided walk through the farmland. You can also see past specimens of technology that have been used for crushing the cane and squeezing the juice from it throughout history.
On the tour, you can sample some of the fruits of the process at the onsite café, which also serves a variety of sweet delicacies. In the colonial-era farm’s gardens, you’ll see butterflies and lizards darting about among the bushes, ancient trees, beautiful flowers, birds, and other wildlife.
Caliwood Museo de la Cinematografia
Many visitors come to the Caliwood Museo de la Cinematografia, a museum that claims to be the first in Colombia to record cinematography—and, more precisely, the technical procedures that go into the production of films. The museum is home to a remarkable collection of large-format, special edition, and sometimes antique cameras that have been employed in the movie industry.
It gives a view into the history of film in Cali but don’t be concerned if you don’t know Spanish; many of the guides are fluent in both English and Spanish.
Museo de Arte Colonial y Religioso La Merced
This museum is well-known among residents and tourists alike for its historical significance and one-of-a-kind collection. It is a must-see for anybody travelling through the area.
Each of the four principal parts of the religious complex is dedicated to a different saint, with the primary nave dedicated to the city’s benefactor holy person, the Our Lady of Mercy.
Its white marble dividers and olive entryways embody pilgrim design, so make sure not to miss the wooden carving of San Pedro Nolasco, which can be seen in the exhibition hall dedicated to religious handicrafts.
MUSA Museo Arqueologico
You can see and appreciate pre-Columbian pottery in MUSA Museo Arqueologico, including urns, vases, figures, and plates, among other things. The museum, open from 9 am-6 pm, is situated in the city’s oldest building, with part of its contemporary layers removed to show the building’s original foundation, floors, and walls.
It consists of six rooms, organized in a chronological sequence that shows the traces of key civilizations from central and southern Columbia’s past.
La Tertulia Museum
With its 64-year heritage, the Tertulia Museum is currently regarded as an essential institution for the city of Cali and a national reference point for the visual arts in Colombia. It contains a collection of more than 1500 pieces of American art, shown in the Collection Rooms in various thematic and monographic shows. As a setting for the social appropriation of artistic practices, it receives more than 75 thousand visitors per year. You can visit the Tertulia Museum with a guide to understand more about the museum.
Float down the San Cipriano River in Cali
San Cipriano’s is located in a little village on Colombia’s Pacific Coast and is bordered by rivers for swimming, snorkelling, tubing, and cliff jumping. With a local guide, you can hover on a brujita, which is a wooden pallet propelled by a motorbike and set on railroad lines through the jungle. It’s a fabulous day out – and you can prebook a trip there here.
With the river on one side and dense forest on the other, you will travel through tunnels and over bridges as you make your way to the reserve’s natural beauty. After that, you can go on a tube, relax, and float along the river while admiring the mesmerizing environment.
Go to the Ecopark Rio Pance
The Rio Pance Ecopark is a lovely venue that offers diverse activities such as rafting. Here you will also find some breathtaking sights, which makes it a great area to rest if you want. But if hiking is more your thing, there are numerous fantastic routes in the surrounding area to choose from.
Visit the Cali Botanical Gardens
Cali Botanical Gardens is somewhat modest, but it is not lacking in terms of the variety of plant life that can be found and admired. And perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the garden is the enormous number of different butterfly species that make their home there.
Take a Coffee Tour in Cali
On this Cali coffee tour, you can learn about the stages of making Colombian bean juice and its origins from the Ethiopian highlands to the Colombian soil. You can also experience picking coffee beans and the whole process from seeding to harvesting. This tour honours their crop and will help remind you of every coffee worker’s passion and hard work. Want to learn more about Coffee while you’re in Cali? Its one of the best places to do it for this iconic crop of Colombia, book your place here.
Go to the La Galleria Market in Cali
If you’ve never been to a Colombian market before, this is an experience you won’t want to miss out on. At La Galleria, you can get just about everything, from souvenirs to home necessities to the essential elements for a witch’s spell. There’s more on visiting La Galleria here.
There are also many exotic fruits to choose from. But if you want to experience the ultimate local cuisine, I recommend going to Las Canchas Panamericanas, home of the cholados and fruit salads.
Go to a Festival in Cali
Every month in Colombia, there is a festival, so you’re in for a treat.
There’s the Barranquilla Carnival in February, where a repertory of dances and musical expressions is featured, and the Flowers festival, where beautiful floral displays are shown off.
You can also enjoy the Blacks and Whites’ carnival – a two-day chaotic spectacle where people smear each other in black and white to commemorate the enslaved people.
They also celebrate The Cali Fair and The Manizales Fair, which are festivals both known for bullfighting.
Take a Chiva at night in Cali, Colombia.
Another impressive thing you can do in Cali is by taking a night tour of Cali on a Chiva, a traditional Colombian party bus that has become synonymous with the city. It is perhaps one of the most enjoyable ways to take in the exciting nightlife of the world’s Salsa Capital, so we highly recommend it!
Things to do Near Cali
Apart from its museums and exciting places to discover, Cali’s nearby areas also offer fantastic views to tourists. You’ll find beautiful views from the ocean to the jungle that will make it an experience of a lifetime, so try these too! These are just two of the highlights of things to do near Cali – there are more of our recommended day trips from Cali here.
Go Whale Watching near Cali
Humpback whale viewing is one of Colombia’s most popular tourist attractions from June to November. If you visit within those months, then this is a must-try! You’ll want to book your dates and reserve a place ahead of time!
You’ll get to see the whales display their acrobatic abilities, show their beauty, and snort loudly. All you have to do during the trip is follow the authorized tourist staff’s instructions and respect nature.
Take a Trip into the Jungle near Cali
Rivers and waterfalls surround Cali, and some of its forests and ecological routes are still unexplored. In this jungle tour, you’ll be able to spend the day exploring Cali’s magnificent natural scenery and waterfalls together with a wildlife expert who will show you the finest of these mountains. Lunch is included in their package and will be served after the tour has ended. You can reserve a place on this tour into the Jungle near Cali here. This is a really popular tour and often sells out – so reserve a place early.
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Final Words on the Best Things to do in Cali
If you’re planning a vacation to Colombia, don’t forget to include Cali in your itinerary. Sure, Colombia’s other main cities are beautiful, but she has a unique charm unlike no other. So if you’re seeking an unforgettable experience—an experience that most visitors don’t get, I highly recommend visiting Cali – there are some great, laid back and exciting things to do in Cali, Colombia! Who knows, you might end up staying for longer!
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