Residing in the Valle de Cauca department in southwest Colombia, Cali is the capital city of its department and contains an estimated 2,319,655 people. Cali is one of the key financial centres of Colombia, and continues to grow economically, being one of the major cities with access to the Pacific coastline. Cali is also known for its sporting events. It has been the city to host some of the world’s largest events, including the Pan American games.
Cali is a city which moves to the beat of salsa: it’s home to many dancing schools, as well as world class performers. With a lot of tradition and a booming economy, Cali is a place that has plenty to offer tourists. There are so many great things to do in Cali, such as visiting the beautiful Hacienda el Paraiso or going to the magnificent Zoologico de Cali, to name a couple. Explore the city and discover its monuments by foot, learn to move to the Caribbean rhythm at one of the many dance academies, or simply relax with a cup of Colombian coffee. Below is our Cali travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
HACIENDA EL PARAISO – Residing just outside of the town is an old sugarcane plantation and manor that has been converted into a museum. This place gives an insight into the lives of some of the elite, as well as some of the local life in general.
ZOOLOGICO DE CALI – This zoo contains a large number of species native to Colombia, and is one of the best in the country. Some of the types of species include: monkeys, anteaters, butterflies, and capybaras.
LA LOMA DE LA CRUZ – This is a very attractive tourist area of Cali. It can be seen from all over the city, due to the cross on the side of the hill that shines brightly during the night-time. There are many things to do here, including shopping and buying handcrafted items from the locals. This part of the city also has different types of music festivals and performances.
MUSEO DE ARQUEOLOGICO LA MERCED – This museum is found in Cali’s oldest building, La Merced Convent. Housed here is a collection of pre-Columbian pottery from all over South America.
MUSEO DEL ORO – This museum contains a collection of fine gold and pottery from the area.
NIRVANA RESERVE – This is a beautiful reserve outside of the city, located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. This is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the wildlife, with forests and many different animals to be found here. There are companies that offer trips from Cali.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Cali offers many different companies that can take you outside the city to experience some of the nature and wilderness. These are some of the more exciting things to do that give you a break from the busy city.
There are many places to eat in Cali, and they offer some of the best local food and culture. Two popular dishes offered are arroz atollado and carne a la llanera.
For the real flavour of Cali, go to Ringlete (Calle 15 A Norte # 9N – 31), which has excellent Colombian cuisine – here you can taste food and drink from the Valle de Cauca region. The staff are more than happy to explain the different dishes, so you can make the best choice… although it’s all delicious!
If you fancy vegetarian food, try Mascabado Cocina Artesanal y Casa de Te (Calle 17N # 8N-30). Fresh, healthy, and delcious, there’s a set menu available for a good price. Open from 8am to 11pm everyday – except Sundays, when it’s 9am ‘til 5pm – come here for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Seating is available both inside and outside.
There are plenty of places where you can enjoy the night in Cali, with most of the bars and pubs found on Avenida Sexta.
Urbano Bar Restaurante (Carrera 66 11-28) has a great and varied playlist, and delicious cocktails. If you feel like dancing, go to Tin Tin Deo (Calle 5 # 38-71), a salsa club alive with energy, and experience one of the best and most traditional nights out in Cali.
You cannot visit Cali without seeing Delirio (Calle 22 # 9-63): a fantastic, magical show that runs once per month, with music, a circus, and a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. Here you’ll enjoy four hours of first-class entertainment and see performers of all ages. Taste typical food, discover the culture of Colombia, and come to the best salsa music show in town.
The average yearly temperature is about 25 degrees Celsius. The climate does not change much throughout the year due to the fact that Cali is close to the equator. There are two main rainy seasons, from March to May and from October to November, but Cali does experience rainfall year-round.
The bus terminal in Cali (Terminal de Transportes) offers trips to and from almost any major city in Colombia, including from Cartagena (25 hours), Bogota, and Medellin, (both around 10 hours to Cali).
Cali has an international airport, located 16km northeast of the city, which also offers domestic flights to all the major airports in Colombia. This includes Cartagena (1 hour and 35 minutes), Bogota (1 hour and 5 minutes), and Medellin (1 hour), as well as Baranquilla (1 hour 35 minutes), and Pasto (55 minutes). International cities that fly to Cali include Lima, Miami, and Madrid, amongst many others.
There are a variety of places to stay in Cali. You can find your low-key hostels that offer cheap but reliable stays for those looking for a bed to sleep in for the night. There are also more upscale hotels that are catered to those who are looking to spend a few days in the city and want to have a place to relax for the night.
One popular place is El Viajero (Carrera 5 N4-56), which has a really nice vibe and great facilities. This includes a bar, pool, and kitchen, as well as Spanish classes and salsa lessons. You’re sure not to get bored here!
Another option is Casa Blanca (Ave 7N | # 24N- 57). Located a bit further from the city centre, in a secure part of town, here you’ll find a lovely, clean hostel, with accommodating staff. It’s about a 10-minute walk to the main bars and restaurants. Both shared and private rooms are available.
Be careful at night-time, and when you go on trips outside of the city - take caution when choosing the travel company, and make sure that they are professional.