Table of Contents
- 1 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Understand
- 2 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Get Around
- 3 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Safety
- 4 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Connectivity
- 5 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Pollution
- 6 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Sights
- 7 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Eat & Drink
- 8 My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Where to Stay
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Understand
This city is best known for its seat of the Cali cartel that ran an enormous cocaine-producing business in the late 1980s.
Cali is located in the Valle del Cauca, nestled in the foothills of the western edge of the huge Andes peaks. Cali is at just 3,000 feet altitude and thanks to its location close to the equator, has a tropical climate with lower humidity, and has cooler nights thanks to the higher altitude. Afternoon rains are more likely February to May and October to December but they can occur at any time and usually bring heavy rain for a few hours. Note that the temperature drops dramatically when it rains (often 30-40 degrees in a few minutes).
Cali is Colombia’s third largest metro area and is often called the Texas of Colombia, with its big agricultural industry and its no-nonsense sense for business. Cali is great value – even more than other Colombian cities; expect to pay about 50-70% less than what you pay in the US.
In general, people are friendlier than in other Colombian cities but also more restricted in their experiences and English is a rarity.
Life in Cali generally feels easy and relaxed.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Get Around
Uber is in town and most rides are under $3. Drivers were courteous and some also spoke a few words of English. Cabify is the local alternative and most taxi drivers in town are honest (especially if you speak some Spanish), and they are metered and safe.
Cali has a lot of roads (most in good condition) and traffic generally flows very well, even during rush hours. Drivers are fairly aggressive, so don’t expect anyone to stop at zebra crossings.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Safety
Most neighborhoods in Cali don’t look too safe, especially downtown. However, opportunity crime is rather rare and I didn’t find myself in a remotely dangerous situation.
Cali shuts down early and you should expect most roads to be empty come 8 PM. There is no reason to walk around at night in most places and you are safe in a car.
Cali’s high murder rate stems mostly from the gang wars that are still shaking the ‘favela’ neighborhoods. Avoid these areas and take normal precautions for a city that is more dangerous than average.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Connectivity
Most coffee shops and restaurants in Cali feature free WiFi. Speeds are slower than in Bogota but should still give you 2-4 Mbit at most times. Colombia is included in the T-Mobile Simple Choice plan and local SIM cards can be bought in many places (though bring some patience and your passport for the initial registration).
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Pollution
Air pollution is NOT a major issue in Cali. Different from Bogota or Medellin, the amount of diesel ‘stinkers’ is small and most cars are new. In general, traffic flows freely and there is a fresh breeze coming off the mountains.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Sights
Iglesia San Antonio (San Antonio Church)
This small, old church sits on a pretty hill just along a freshly rejuvenated neighborhood. Do the climb in the afternoon and then try out the emerging cuisine in the places just below.
Museo de Arte Moderno la Tertulia (Tertulia Museum of Modern Art)
This museum looks pretty great from the outside and also features a neat museum coffee shop (don’t eat or drink anything in the coffee shop though!) However, the museum had no active exhibition when I was visiting – maybe you will have better luck!
Loma de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross)
This public park features more than sixty artisan stalls that feature works of local craftsmanship. You can buy all kinds – from jewelry to shoes and musical instruments, from Colombian as well as other South American sellers. There are great views from the top and the park also features outdoor films, live concerts and even dance lessons in the amphitheater.
Parque del Perro (Dog Park)
While this small park in barrio San Fernando has a statue of a dog named Teddy and some dog owners do go there, it is more known for its surrounding bars, juice bars and restaurants. Sit down and hang out with a beer at this hidden gem.
The InterContinental hotel is a major city landmark and has given rise to a whole neighborhood with upscale commerce. Even if you don’t stay here (though you should), come by the pool area and have a relaxing drink.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Eat & Drink
Juan Valdez (multiple locations)
Juan Valdez is Colombia’s very own Starbucks’ competitor. I’m not a fan of the espresso drinks here but the Av 9N location has a beautiful outside patio and fantastic interior design. The immediate neighborhood isn’t the best and you will likely get in touch with the aggressive homeless population of Cali on your way here, though.
La Diva makes fantastic Italian-inspired dishes including stone baked pizza in an eclectic location. It isn’t cheap for Cali but absolutely worth it and still cheap compared to back home.
I walked by this coffee shop and bakery a few times before I finally noticed it. What a find it is – the sandwiches and desserts are fantastic.
There is a big choice of healthy options prepared to perfection, the coffee is drinkable too and sometimes the WiFi works.
Pita Majita’s Arab restaurant has cornered the market for affordable, simple and healthy food with their great pitas. I feasted on them several days in a row and liked their creative ways of making a simple pita dish. It is also great value at just $3. Weekdays, there is also a daily menu that is really cheap.
Macondo just has a tiny entrance in an old house but has likely the coziest atmosphere of any coffee shop in town. Don’t expect too much in terms of espresso drinks or desserts but come late and get a Bogota craft beer instead.
This Bogota mainstay has a wonderful location in Cali along a tree-lined street with historic houses. The beer is as good as you know from other locations and the huge flight taster with seven beers is just $3 – what a deal!
El Molino is a neighborhood favorite and known for its cafe and ultra-cheap bakery items. It’s decent quality and so cheap you won’t believe it. There is also a lovely patio where you can people-watch.
Spizzica has pizza by the slice and while not especially artisan, provides a quick fill. The neighborhood can be sketchy, though, so take extra care at night.
Lengua de Mariposa (Butterfly Tongue) Ice Cream Parlor
This place will introduce you to all the tropical flavors of fruits growing in the Cali area. I have never seen or tasted so many new fruit flavors in one place that I had never heard about before.
My Favorite 17 Things to do Cali, Colombia – Where to Stay
The InterContinental Cali is a good hotel with a fantastic pool area for the sunny mornings in Cali. It is also frequently on sale, making it a steal.
The Dann Carlton Hotel, just around the corner, is a solid choice.
The Hampton By Hilton also provided a quality product.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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