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The 21 best things to do in Cali, Colombia

Learning salsa can be a great reason to visit the city, but there are plenty of other amazing things to do in Cali, Colombia.


Cali Colombia

Renowned as the "Salsa Capital of the World”, Cali, Colombia, beckons travelers with its rhythmic beats and colorful streets. Beyond its renowned dance floors, Cali unfolds as a multifaceted destination, offering a rich blend of history, gastronomy, and the warm embrace of its friendly locals. 

From its landmarks to its lively nightlife, this article will be your passport to an unforgettable adventure in this dynamic city.

How to get to Cali, Colombia

Many people visit Cali after passing through the coffee region in Colombia. So, a common and easy way to get there is to take a bus from Armenia, for instance. In that case you must take the Expreso Palmira bus. The trip lasts 3 hours and 30 minutes.

If you are in Medellín, another popular Colombian city, you can take the Bolivariano, which takes 10 hours to reach your destination. Or if you’re coming to Cali from Bogotá, you can take a bus from the Expreso Palmira and the trip lasts 11 hours.

The best time to visit Cali

Cali has great climate all year round, so you can visit the city whenever you prefer. However, if you want to attend its festivals, I recommend going in the months of November and December.

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best things to do in Cali Colombia

The 21 best things to do in Cali, Colombia

1. Do a work exchange in Cali

If you want to live a great experience going much beyond typical tourism, I recommend doing a work exchange in Cali. This type of program, which is also referred to as volunteering, is one of the best ways to live like a local and learn more about Colombian culture and customs. You exchange your time and skills for free accommodation and other perks, like meals and tours.

You can find great positions for volunteering in Cali at Worldpackers, a collaborative travel platform that specializes in this kind of exchange.

There are hosts looking for volunteers to help with gardening at an eco-farm, bartending in a hostel, painting and decorating, welcoming guests and much more.

do a work exchange in Cali

2. Get to know the history of Cali, Colombia

If you want to know the history of Cali well, you should take a tour. That way you will learn more about the culture, the emblems, and the lifestyle of the city. 

I recommend doing the tour with the Civitatis agency, but you can also google "free walking tour in Cali" and see what comes up. In these types of tours there's no fixed fee, but you're expected to tip the guide at the end.

3. Hill of the Three Crosses

The Cerro de las Tres Cruces (Hill of the Three Crosses) is an emblematic place with one of the best views of the city. The climb is a little demanding, but when you reach the top, you will see that it is well worth the effort.

There are 3 routes to get to the hill:

  • Normandy (Distance: 1.8 kilometers)
  • Bataclán (Distance: 1.3 kilometers)
  • La Tripleta (Distance: 4.3 kilometers)

I recommend the Normandy option. You must go along Avenida 4 A Oeste, as if you were going to El Gato del Rio. You must follow that path until you reach Calle 2 Oeste, which is where the private parking lots are.

The entrance fee is 4 thousand pesos (1 USD) and it is open from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. If you’re alone, I recommend going around 10 or 11 in the morning, since at that time there will probably be more people going up the hill too.

hill of the three crosses

4. Cristo Rey

Cristo Rey is one of the most important monuments of Cali, Colombia. To get there, taking an Uber is a good option. You will get to Cristo quickly and it can cost you about 30 thousand pesos (9 USD) if you are in the Bella Vista neighborhood. If you want to take a bus, you can use the Moovit app to check which line suits you best.

5. Sebastián Belalcázar viewpoint

At this viewpoint you will find the monument of Sebastián Belalcázar, the founder of Cali and other cities in South America. From there you can enjoy a great sunset and then go down to the city for a drink. It is located between Carrera 2 West and Carrera 2a, one kilometer away from La Tertulia Museum.

Cali Colombia

6. San Cipriano Natural Reserve

The San Cipriano Natural Reserve is a paradise. It is located in the middle of the jungle, with waterfalls and crystalline rivers where you can do activities such as swimming and tubing. It is an ideal place to rest your body and clear your mind. I recommend doing the tour with Activiturs.

When you go to the reserve, I recommend bringing mosquito repellent, comfortable clothing and a second change of clothes, water, sunscreen, a small backpack, and something to keep your cell phone and camera from getting wet.

7. Pelongo Waterfalls

The Pelongo Waterfalls are located near the Pance River, one of the main rivers in Cali. I recommend taking the tour with Turismoi, starting in La Vorágine. The best part of the tour are the ravines, puddles, and waterfalls that you will find along the way.

8. Andoke Butterfly Park

Colombia is one of the countries with the greatest variety of butterflies in the world. So far it is known that there are 3,500 species there. Andoke Butterfly Park (Mariposario Andoke) is a foundation and butterfly farm located in Cali, Colombia, where you can see many of these species.

There you will learn a lot about preservation and coexistence in harmony with natural resources.

On the Paseo de la Transformación tour you will be able to walk through a spectacular garden among more than 500 butterflies, seeing how they are born and reproduce.

In the butterfly garden you can also take a walk along trails, on the way to Charco Azul.

Getting to this place is very easy. You can take a bus from the center of Cali on Carrera 10 and Calle 10. The bus will be going to Pichindé, and you must get off at kilometer 6, where you will see a sign for the Andoke Butterfly Garden.

Butterfly Park

9. Rappel in La Perojosa Park

Colombia is one of the best places to practice rappel and other extreme sports. I recommend doing it in La Perojosa Park, where you will be about 25 meters high will descend 400 meters through a ravine with five waterfalls.

The tour lasts approximately 3 hours and costs 60 thousand pesos (17 USD). It is advisable to wear very comfortable clothing, water shoes if possible, another change of clothes to change after rappelling, and mosquito repellent. Under no circumstances should you stray from the established route.

This place is located 40 minutes from the urban center of Cali. The address is Plaza de Toros, Calle 56 (Avenida Guadalupe).

10. Lake Calima

Although this place is not located in the city of Cali, it is not far away and can be easily reached. The Calima Reservoir (Embalse del Calima), better known as Lago Calima (Lake Calima), is located in the municipality of Darién.

From Cali you can take a bus from the TransCalima company and in 2 hours you will be there. Then you can take another bus that will take you to Lake Calima.

Calima Lake

In Lake Calima there is the possibility of doing water sports, such as kitesurfing. You can choose Calima Kitesurf School to get a class if you have never done it before. At the beginner level you are going to learn the most basics of this sport, and since it lasts 10 hours, you will need at least four days for this. They also have classes for intermediate and advanced levels.

11. Enjoy Cali from the air

Not many people travel thinking about paragliding, but it is a very good idea to get a good dose of adrenaline and get a different perspective of the place. I recommend that you do paragliding in Cali, Colombia. I recommend you do it with the people from Valley Adventours.

And if you want something more extreme, they can also take you skydiving. It's a little more expensive but it's worth it.

Cali Colombia

12. Pico de Loro

If you want to venture out and climb one of the mountains most loved by the people of Cali, I recommend going to Pico de Loro, which has an altitude of 2,860 meters above sea level.

This famous peak is in Pance, in the south of the municipality of Cali. To go up to this place you will need a guide, since it is easy to get lost there. You can do it with Picoloro Ecoturismo, for example.

I recommend that you bring footwear with good grip, mosquito repellent, a whistle in case of an emergency, comfortable clothing, a second change of clothes, sunglasses, some fruit, protective covers for your cell phone and/or camera in case of rain, a flashlight, and water.

13. Whale watching

Did you know you can go whale watching near Cali, Colombia? If you’re a fan of these impressive animals, this is your opportunity to enjoy a great show offered by nature.

From around July 15 to October 15, humpback whales appear along the Colombian Pacific coast. The three places to see them are in Nuquí, on Gorgona Island and in Bahía Málaga.

Since you are going to be in Cali, it is most convenient to go see them in Bahía Málaga, which is in Valle del Cauca. You can book a tour with Valley Adventours, the same agency with which you can go paragliding and skydiving.

Some tours only last one day, but it is best to go for longer. There are options that last 3 days and 2 nights, which are much more expensive, but totally worth it.

whale watching

14. Calima Gold Museum

Don’t leave Cali without visiting its museums to learn more about its art, culture, customs, and history. The Calima Gold Museum, locaated within the Cultural Center of Banco de la República, is a great choice.

There you will find more than 500 pre-Hispanic elements of goldsmithing, ceramics, wood, stone and more, that time that belonged to the people of the Calima region. These societies were known as Llama, Yotoco and Sonso.

15. Jairo Varela Museum

If the reason you decided to visit Cali in the first place was salsa, then you must know about Jairo Varela. He played a very important role in the history of salsa, so much there is even a museum in his name, where you can learn all about him.

There you can see photos of Varela, trophies, medals, gold records, sheet music, instruments, and much more. Admission is free.

16. Museum of Natural Sciences

If you are interested in learning more about Colombian fauna you will love the Museum of Natural Sciences (Museo Departamental de Ciencias Naturales), where you will also be able to see replicas of dinosaur skeletons.

Keep reading: 12 reasons why should you visit Cartagena de Indias

17. La Tertulia Museum

This modern art museum was the first in the entire country and is very important. There you will find local and national art from other regions of Colombia. The museum has a great vibe and it is easy to spend at least two hours there.

18. Jairo Varela Square

This square is a cultural site where you can find cafes and restaurants. What stands out the most in this square is the Sound Sculpture, where you can stand under the bells to listen to the melody. Don’t forget to read the Cali anthem of salsa inside it.

Cali Colombia

19. Colombian street food

The Valle del Cauca region has great food. There are many things you should try before leaving Cali, Colombia. In most street stalls you will find delicacies such as:

  • Empanadas
  • Arepas
  • Potato and yucca cake
  • Patacones
  • Almojábanas
  • Mango biche
  • Salpicón de frutas
  • Cholado

You might also like to read: 10 Colombian desserts and traditional food you must try

Colombian food

20. Restaurants in Cali

If you are looking for proper restaurants in Cali, I’ll recommend some that I really liked.

  • Platillos Voladores: the food here is great and their menu is very varied.
  • El Buen Alimento: if you are a vegetarian this place is made for you. There is a large menu with different types of food, where you will find things like burgers, rammen, nuggets, sandwiches, and many more vegetarian dishes.
  • El Zaguán de San Antonio: in this restaurant you will find typical food from the Valle del Cauca.

21. What to do in Cali at night

After a day of sightseeing, you should try to gather your energy and go out partying, or “salir de rumba” as the Colombians say. I recommend the following places for enjoying Cali at night:

  • Zaperoco Bar: this place is known as the temple of salsa. There you can dance all night and enjoy local drinks.
  • Tin Tin Deo: this club, like Zaperoco, promotes salsa as the city's heritage.
  • La Topa Tolondra: there is often live music at this place, with a very good atmosphere.
  • Macondo: if you want a more relaxed night you can go to Macondo, where you can also enjoy food, cocktails, beer, and good music.

nightlife in Cali

I hope I have helped you with these tips for exploring Cali, Colombia, so you can fully enjoy this beautiful city. No wonder it's called La Sucursal del Cielo ("The Branch of Heaven").

To continue planning your trip through this incredible country, don't miss these articles: 

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