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.
If you’re visiting Cali soon, you’ve come to the right place. After reading this guide, you’ll know which areas to stay in, where to find the best restaurants and how to get around this vibrant city in Colombia.
Also, check out our list of the best activities in Cali!
Why is Cali famous for salsa dancing?
Cali is known as the ‘salsa capital of the world’ for a reason. Salsa is the city’s obsession, and it soon becomes one for its visitors as well. The streets are often filled with parties and locals dancing salsa.
Taking salsa lessons and going to one of Cali’s famous salsa clubs is one of the best ways to understand the city. You see the kindness in the locals’ hearts, how much they want to share their love of salsa with you and the connections it creates between people.
How long should you spend in Cali?
How long you spend in Cali depends on what you plan to do there. If you’re not planning on learning either salsa or bachata, there isn’t that much to see.
Cali hasn’t got as many things to do as Bogota and Medellin. Most people come here to take salsa lessons every day, and practise their moves at night.
If you’re just visiting, then 2-3 days is plenty. If you want to learn how to dance, anything from one week to two months is the perfect amount of time in Cali.
Where to stay in Cali
Picking where to stay in Cali is pretty important. Although Cali has made massive leaps and bounds from its dangerous reputation, it’s still important to choose a safe area to stay.
Where you stay can hugely influence the experience that you have in the city.
To help you decide where to stay in Cali, here are our top 3 safe, fun and beautiful areas:
Location #1: San Antonio — a trendy neighbourhood full of cafes and restaurants
Best for: Trendy cafes, restaurants and colourful streets filled with street art. It’s one of the safest neighbourhoods in Cali too.
Who is it for: Those looking to stay in a safe area in Cali, full of trendy hotels, Airbnbs and hostels.
Don’t miss: The historical sites in San Antonio — it’s one of the oldest areas in Cali. And the incredible art and culture that makes this neighbourhood unique.
Biggest downside: It’s still not 100% safe. Make sure to follow the locals’ advice.
Accommodation in San Antonio
You’ll be spoilt for accommodation options in San Antonio. Because it’s one of the most popular areas in Cali, a lot of the accommodations are situated there.
You’ll find trendy hotels, Airbnbs and a large choice of hostels here.
Private rooms in this area start at around $15 per night.
Location #2: El Peñón — the most luxurious area of Cali
Best for: Safety. El Peñón is one of the most exclusive and protected areas in Cali.
Who is it for: Tourists looking for a very safe area in the city. Security personnel are dotted around the streets.
Don’t miss: The hipster bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
Biggest downside: Prices can be higher in this area.
Accommodation in El Peñón
Due to the more luxurious surroundings, the hotels are more expensive here.
Our favourite option in this area is Alko Hotel Casa Nispero. It’s a luxurious paradise that you won’t want to leave.
Location #3: Granada — bursting with art, culture and a bit of luxury
Best for: Arts, culture and comedy. Both locals and tourists flock to Granada which is the city’s epicentre for arts.
Who is it for: Travellers interested in being surrounded by Cali’s culture and those who like to rub shoulders with locals.
Don’t miss: The boutiques selling pieces from local designers.
Biggest downside: Cheap eats might be slightly harder to find, Granada is where most of the city’s expensive restaurants are located.
Accommodation in Granada
Granada has a similar standard of accommodation to El Peñón. The hotels here are pretty luxurious and start at around $25 per night for a private room.
Best restaurants and cafes in Cali
Cali’s food scene remains largely undiscovered by the world. But once you do a bit of research, you’ll find that it’s home to a number of culinary gems that would get any foodie excited.
It’s also a super affordable city. Incredible food isn’t going to cost a bomb.
So you don’t have to do the work, we rounded up our 3 favourite places to eat in Cali:
Padma House — great coffee in a chilled atmosphere
Padma House is the ideal place to get some work done, meet with friends for a coffee or enjoy some tasty food. Their neutrally decorated interior creates a lovely environment to relax.
The food is healthy, delicious and comes in big portions. You can enjoy one of their sandwiches with potato wedges, crepes, smoothie bowls and much more. Probably one of the best cafes in Cali.
La Bella Pizza — Italian pizza by an Italian owner
If you weren’t expecting exceptional pizza in Colombia, you’re in for a surprise. La Bella Pizza is owned by a lovely Italian man who has managed to capture the heart and soul of Italian food, thousands of miles from home.
This might be the best pizza in Colombia! The prices are very reasonable and the relaxing ambience is a nice escape from the busy streets of Cali.
Madreselva Vegano — the best menu del dias
If you’re looking to treat your body to some delicious and healthy food, then head to Madreselva Vegano. As the name suggests, everything is plant-based and mouth-wateringly good!
They have a pretty extensive and exciting menu, ranging from burgers and arepas to burritos, but we suggest going for lunch. Their lunchtime menu del dia is a steal — only 15,000 COP ($3.80) for a starter, main and juice.
How to get around Cali
You have a few options for how to get around Cali: by bus, taxi and foot. Which one you pick will depend on the time of day and where you’re trying to get to.
Taxis are the best way to get around Cali and are often the form of transport recommended by locals.
One of the first things a local will tell you is not to walk around at night, even if it’s only a short walk. Just get a taxi! They’re also pretty cheap.
Using Uber in Cali
We’d recommend using Uber or getting your accommodation to order a taxi for you.
Uber is actually illegal in Colombia, so you’ll need to sit in the front seat. An Uber ride to most parts of the city should cost you between 5,000 COP ($1.20) and 10,000 COP ($2.50).
Walking around Cali can be a good way to explore the city. Before walking somewhere we’d recommend checking that it’s a safe area for you to be, like San Antonio, El Peñón, Granada, Centro, Versalles and San Fernando.
Once you’re in these areas, walking around during the day should be perfectly fine. The streets of Cali are stunning, lined with colourful buildings and covered in impressive graffiti.
The only form of public transport in Cali is the bus, there’s no metro. It can be a great way to explore the city as the bus lines cover 95% of the city.
It’s also a very cheap way to get around. You need an MIO card to ride the bus, which can be bought from many stations. The card costs 3,000 COP ($0.70) and each ride is around 2,200 COP ($0.50).
Bus from the airport to the city centre
The bus is also ideal for getting from the airport to the bus terminal. The ride takes around 45 minutes and costs 10,000 COP ($2.50). From there, you can take a taxi to your accommodation, saving some money.
How to get to Cali
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Bogota||1.5-11.5 hours||from 77,000 COP ($19.50)||Bogota to Cali|
Now that you’ve finished reading this guide, you’re almost ready for your adventure in Cali. The next step is to create your personalised itinerary with our top picks of things to do in Cali. Simply choose your favourite activities and places to visit, and you’re all set to make lasting memories in Cali.
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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