That’s because Cali is still somewhat struggling with its dangerous reputation. We’ll be honest, it’s still not the safest place to visit, but as long as you follow the locals’ advice, you will be fine!
Once you look past Cali’s reputation, you realise what a magical place it is. It’s a city that captures people’s hearts through the power of music and dance, and makes them stay for months at a time.
Get your bucket list ready. In this guide, we’ll show you the best things to do in Cali and how to experience them.
Top tours in and around Cali
- Sample unique Colombian dishes and drinks on this Cali Food Tour for $18
- Join the grand City Tour of Cali for $44
- Day trip and tubing adventure in San Cipriano for $170
Need help planning your trip? Check out our Ultimate Guide to visiting Cali — you’ll find the best restaurants, where to stay, how to get around and more!
#1 Take a salsa class
Cali is known as the ‘salsa capital of the world’ so what better place to take salsa lessons? You’ll get to learn from some of the best salsa teachers in the world.
The city lives and breathes salsa. You’ll hear it flowing out from shops, taxis and homes. It’s the best place to immerse yourself in the dance culture.
Once you’ve picked up the basics, you’ll be able to show off your salsa skills across the whole of Latin America.
Private or group salsa lessons: which ones are better?
There are salsa schools scattered all across the city, offering both private and group lessons.
Group salsa lessons
Group lessons are the cheaper option, but if you really want to make fast progress, we’d recommend taking private lessons. When you have a good teacher, it’s pretty amazing to see how quickly you improve!
For group lessons, we recommend La Academia de Baile Sabor Manicero. Their teachers are great, and it’s also one of the cheapest places in Cali for group lessons.
Top Tip: The more lessons you take, the cheaper it works out per class. For example at Manicero, one 90-minute lesson costs 15,000 COP ($3.80), whilst a package of 16 classes costs 120,000 COP ($30.50) (7,500 COP ($1.90) per lesson).
Private salsa lessons
Our favourite dance school for private lessons has to be Viajero Hostel. The added bonus of taking lessons here is that you can stay at the hostel and just roll out of bed for your lessons.
They also offer bachata, a sexy and intimate style of dance that originated from the Dominican Republic.
Dancing and learning a new skill can be pretty daunting. However, all of the teachers at Viajero are incredible and will get you feeling confident about your dancing skills in no time.
A package of 10 hours costs 75,000 COP ($19.00) here.
Top Tip: If you decide to take lessons at Viajero Salsa School ask for Johnny (he’s amazing). His number is +573106014371 if you want to book directly with him.
#2 Dance the night away in a salsa club
It would be a waste to learn a new skill and not practise it! Once you’ve picked up the basics of salsa, there’s no excuse not to visit a salsa club.
Cali has more than 1,500 registered bars and clubs, so you’re spoilt for choice on where to go.
What makes the salsa clubs in Cali particularly special is that everyone dances with everyone. No matter your level, locals love to dance with you and share their passion for music.
We promise that you won’t be sitting down for longer than two minutes the whole night.
Best salsa clubs in Cali
First on the list has to be La Topa Tolondra. It’s one of the most famous salsa clubs in the city.
La Topa is open every day, so there are plenty of opportunities to practise your salsa skills.
The best days to visit La Topa are on weekdays. This is when the best dancers come out to play. You can’t help but be in awe as they move around the dancefloor.
On weekdays, there’s also more space to practise your own moves.
Entrance to La Topa ranges between 10,000 COP ($2.50) and 15,000 COP ($3.80) depending on what day you visit.
#3 Watch an amazing salsa show
If you’ve decided to give salsa lessons a miss, but still want to get a taste of what makes Cali special, then go to a salsa show.
Ask any local what the best salsa show to see in Cali is and they will tell you El Mulato Cabaret.
Every Friday and Saturday, El Mulato Cabaret comes alive with the best Colombian music, rumba, salsa and an exhibition of national and international artists.
Alongside an incredible orchestra, the dancers from the elite Swing Latino Company will have you wowed! Their skill, elegance and ability to move their body are simply out of this world.
Enjoy food and drink during the performances. Stick around for the afterparty and dance the night away until 3am. Try practising some of the moves you’ve just seen!
A salsa show is one of the most memorable things to do in Cali. Prices start from 70,000 COP ($17.50).
#4 Get some incredible views of the city from Cristo Rey
From most places in Cali, you’ll be able to see the impressive 26-metre-tall Cristo Rey statue watching over the city. It’s a popular place to visit as it offers an incredible view over the dense and chaotic city.
Visiting Cristo Rey is a great way to spend a morning or an afternoon. There are many food vendors at the top, so it can be a nice place to grab some lunch.
How to visit the Cristo Rey monument
The easiest option: Take a taxi from your accommodation right to the top of the hill. This will cost you around 10 COP ($0.00).
The more challenging option: If you’re looking to get some exercise into your visit to Cali, then you can take on the 8km hike to the top.
You can reach the start of the trail by taking one of the MIO buses to CAI Bellavista. From here, you can hike or hop on one of the jeeps waiting to take you to the top.
The alternative option: Join the Grand City Tour of Cali, which takes you to Cristo Rey as well as other sights in the city. You’ll get to learn about Cali, learn a bit of salsa and visit San Antonio for $44.
Book the Grand City Tour of Cali for $44.
#5 Hike Cerro de Las Tres Cruces
A popular thing to do in Cali for both tourists and locals is to climb to the top of Cerro de Las Tres Cruces.
The 2-3 hour hike and 480m of elevation brings you to three huge crosses erected in 1938. Whilst the crosses are impressive in themselves, the elevation offers some spectacular views of Cali.
This hike is definitely one to get the blood pumping as it’s pretty steep, but well worth the effort once you reach the top.
It’s recommended to do this hike only in the mornings and preferably at the weekends when there are a lot of people doing the hike. It’s a known place for robberies, so try not to bring any of your valuables. There are people along the way, but it’s best to be safe.
#6 Get to know Cali on a free walking tour
A walking tour is the perfect way to learn about a new city. A local will show you the historical sights of the city, plus a few secret spots only known to the locals.
At first glance, Cali doesn’t appear to be the prettiest of cities. But it does have an interesting history of both violence and resilience. It’s interesting to learn this from a local and see how far the city has come.
What will you see on the Cali walking tour?
We recommend taking the walking tour with Free Tour Cali. During the 2-hour historical tour of Cali, you’ll get to visit places like the Plaza de Cayzedo and San Francisco, Complex La Merced and many more.
Along the way, your guide stops to try some of Cali’s unique street food. You’ll also get some great recommendations for the rest of your stay in Cali.
As the name suggests, the tour is free. However, with these types of tours, you are expected to pay a tip to the guide at the end. You get to tip what you think the tour was worth.
#7 Join the locals for a swim at Pance River
The Pance River flows along the southern side of Cali. If you’re looking to experience Cali like a local, this is something you should do.
There are a few reasons why Pance River is such a popular chill-out spot in Cali. Firstly, Cali has no beaches nearby, so this is the closest the locals can get to a refreshing swim to escape the heat.
Secondly, it’s the only river in the city that isn’t polluted and that you can swim in.
Join the locals with a picnic or drinking Aguardiente (the popular Colombian liquor) whilst sitting on the banks of the river.
How to get to Pance River
Pance River is located just 20 minutes south of Cali and can be reached by either taxi or bus.
You can take the A14B bus in the direction of Universidades D1 to the stop Via La Voragine Ecoparque 4 Entrada. The bus ticket, as long as you have an MIO card, should cost around 2,000 COP ($0.50).
#8 Soak up Cali’s history in San Antonio
In the north-west of Cali, you’ll find San Antonio. It’s one of the oldest areas in the city and also one of the most popular.
It’s considered a safe area with lots of colourful houses, trendy cafes and restaurants, and sights worth seeing. This area is where you’ll find all of our top food recommendations mentioned in our guide to Cali.
Art and culture contribute to the magical feel of San Antonio. It’s a beautiful blend of the old and the new, with the colourful colonial buildings now decorated with impressive graffiti and murals.
Wandering around and getting lost in the San Antonio streets is one of the quintessential Cali activities.
#9 Sample some of Cali’s unique food
Cali has a number of foods and drinks that are specific to the city. They’ll be hard to find anywhere else, or they just won’t be as good.
You can make a list of these foods and find where to eat them yourself… or you could join a Cali food tour.
Over 3 hours, you’ll get to visit the local market, trying fruits such as Contaduro, traditional drinks like Lulada, typical food like Ceviche Colombiano and much more!
#10 Take an adventure to San Cipriano
San Cipriano is perfect for those looking to get out of the city and experience some adventure. Getting to San Cipriano is probably going to be a first for most people — we’ll get to that.
San Cipriano is a small town within a stunning nature reserve between Cali and Buenaventura. Here you’ll find plenty of hikes, natural pools and waterfalls.
Most people come for the river tubing adventure here. For almost an hour, all you have to do is sit back in your rubber ring and take in the breathtaking views that pass by on either side of you.
How to get to San Cipriano
This part might actually be more exciting than the destination itself. Well, they say it’s about the journey, not the destination!
San Cipriano is in the middle of the jungle. Therefore, the only way to reach the town is on a Moto Bruja. Not sure what that is? The direct translation is a motorcycle witch.
It’s essentially a motorbike attached to a cart that people can sit on. This motorbike then goes down some old train tracks. You’ll understand when you get there.
If you want everything organised for you so that you can simply enjoy the day, you can join this fun-filled day trip to San Cipriano.
Ride a ‘motorcycle witch’ on your day trip and tubing adventure in San Cipriano for $170.
#11 Wander around Galería de Alameda
Markets are such a big part of Latin American culture. This is where you’ll find lots of locals, discover new foods and absorb the atmosphere of a city.
Galleria Market in Cali is one of the best to visit in the city. It sells pretty much everything! Need some fresh fruit and vegetables? They’ve got it. Shopping for flowers? You’ll be spoilt for choice. Looking for a gift for someone? You’ll also find it there.
Enjoy some food at the market
Want to eat where the locals eat? Then head to a market. Galleria Market has a number of food vendors where you can enjoy a traditional meal for a very low price.
Somewhat unexpected, but there’s also a tapas bar in the middle of the market. El Gusto Español de Vallemar makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Spain.
Enjoy freshly cooked paella, a selection of tapas dishes with a Colombian twist, Tinto de Verano and, of course, Sangria. With live guitarists, it’s a lovely place to have lunch or a drink.
#12 Hike to the top of Pico Loro mountain
If Cerro de Las Tres Cruces is too easy for you, instead you can take on Pico de Loro. Situated in the village of Pance, the 2860m mountain is a popular hike for anyone looking for a challenge and bird-lovers (there are more than 540 species of birds there).
The hike ascends 1,200m and covers 4.5km. On average the ascent and descent should take around 8 hours in total.
To hike Pico de Loro it is required to hire a guide. You can often find a group tour for around $60-70, but it can be cheaper to just hire a guide and make your own way there.
The view from the top, once you’re amongst the clouds, makes the whole hike worth it!
#13 Go canyoning in one of Cali’s rivers
When visiting a city, going canyoning isn’t normally at the top of your list of things to do.
Cali is sometimes nicknamed the city of seven rivers, making it an ideal place to try canyoning. It’s a guaranteed way to get the adrenaline pumping and the heart racing.
Its geographical location, nestled between the Western and Central Andes, makes it great for abseiling cliff faces, jumping from waterfalls and sliding down rock slides.
All of this whilst surrounded by some of the most tranquil and mesmerising views.
You can join a canyoning tour with New Order Adventures ($50) or book the trip through a travel agency when you arrive in Cali.
#14 Enjoy La Chorrera del Indio Waterfall
La Chorrera del Indio, meaning Indian Spring, is a 35-metre waterfall completely surrounded by nature.
It’s the perfect place to escape the city for a bit and just relax to the sounds of nature. La Chorrera del Indio also isn’t that popular. Hopefully, you’ll be sharing the waterfall with only a few locals.
How to visit the waterfall
Unless you have a car, the only way to do the 35-minute journey is by taxi.
Entrance to La Chorrera del Indio waterfall costs 8,000 COP ($2.00).
#15 Join in the fun on Ciclovia Sunday
Every Sunday something magical happens across Colombia. In all of the major cities, a large area of streets is closed to car traffic.
Locals then flood to these streets to go running, cycling, even roller blading.
The program was introduced to promote active living in urban areas. This definitely seems to have worked as you see thousands of people passing through the streets.
Stalls selling food and drink set themselves up along the street, making the day a real event.
If you’re looking to join in on Ciclovia Sunday, head down to the roads near Las Canchas Panamericanas between 8am-1pm.
#16 Play Tejo
Tejo is a popular game that can be found all over Colombia.
It’s a rather bizarre but exciting game. Players take turns to throw a heavy steel disk onto a board covered in clay. At the centre of the board lies a metal ring or horseshoe.
Around the edges of the ring are triangular paper pouches that are filled with gunpowder. When you hit them, you’ll be rewarded with a pretty loud explosion and maybe some fire!
Points are earned depending on where the heavy metal disk lands. It’s a fun way to spend the evening in Cali, playing alongside locals and enjoying a cerveza or two!
A great place to play Tejo in Cali is at Cancha De Tejo Los Amigos.
#17 Admire Iglesia Ermita
For those not joining the tour, the church is still worth a visit. It’s an iconic symbol of Cali.
The gothic-style cathedral was actually inspired by the Cathedral of Cologne in Germany and was originally built in the 17th century. After an earthquake in 1787, the church was rebuilt to look how it looks today.
Rounding it up
Now you’ve picked the best things to do in Cali, it’s time to start ticking off that bucket list. Not sure how to plan your trip? Our guide is here to help! You’ll find out how long to stay in Cali, where to eat, how to get around and more. Happy planning!
Cali is world famous for its salsa. It should also be known that Cali has a ton of budget-friendly accommodations. You might actually struggle to find somewhere expensive!
You can find a great place to stay for a fraction of the price of most other destinations in Colombia!
To help you pick the right place, in the best location, here are our favourite places to stay in Cali:
Alko Hotel Casa Nispero - Treating Yourself
This Alko Hotel really takes things to the next level. If you’re looking for somewhere that oozes luxury, then this is the place! Their rooms are HUGE! We’re talking apartment-sized rooms, boasting ultimate comfort.
Adding to the comfort, every room has its own hot tub bath. The outdoor swimming pool and bar make the hotel a relaxing retreat from the busy city of Cali. This is a stay that you won’t forget!
- Outdoor swimming pool and bar
- Massive and luxurious rooms
- Hot tubs in your bathroom
- Superb breakfast included
Double rooms start from $80 per night
Alko Hotel Integrado - Mid Range
Another Alko Hotel that couldn’t be left out from our top favourites. The hotel feels like a piece of modern art. Its unique designs make it an incredible place to stay. All of the rooms are bright and spacious, with a lot of them offering their own private terrace. The views are great!
You’ll be in a great location here. The friendly staff will also help you to make the most of the area.
- Unique and fascinating design
- Friendly and helpful staff
- Perfect location
- Delicious breakfast included
Double rooms cost between $40-$80 per night
Rossa Palma - Mid Range
With its vibrant pops of colour and tropical swimming pool, it’s hard not to smile when you walk into Rossa Palma. This hotel feels like a mini oasis inside of Cali.
You can choose from beautifully decorated private rooms, to fully equipped apartments. They also have an onsite seafood restaurant that is absolutely delicious!
- Swimming pool
- Onsite seafood restaurant
- Fully equipped apartments and private rooms
- Great breakfast included
Double rooms start from $40 per night
Magic Garden House - Budget Friendly
Its name says it all, this place is magical. Its near perfect reviews also seem to agree! The rooms are uniquely decorated, each of them with their own character. You can see which one suits your style the most.
The incredibly friendly hosts help to add that extra sprinkle of magic. They truly want your stay in Cali to be the best. Starting off with their delicious breakfast every morning!
- Uniquely decorated rooms
- Extremely welcoming and friendly hosts
- Great location
- Delicious breakfast included
Double rooms cost between $20-$40 per night
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