Cali has invested heavily in reclaiming the once derelict riverside area immediately beside the city center and the redeveloped Ave del Río, which is now considered safe, is a pleasant enough place for a stroll. However, like most areas near the center it should be avoided late at night.
For a city of its size, Cali has very few top attractions but it compensates with atmosphere. Caleños are proud of their vibrant culture and have a rebellious attitude that's reflected in the city's catchphrase: 'Cali es Cali y lo demás es loma, ¿oís?' (Cali is Cali, and the rest [of Colombia] is just mountain, ya hear?).
No trip to Cali is complete without visiting Cerro de las Tres Cruces, three crosses that tower over the city. The views here are spectacular. It's a hefty two- to three-hour walk (round trip) from Granada heading northwest – bring plenty of water. Security is an issue on the trail – especially on weekdays when it's more or less empty – so travel in a group and don't take any valuables.
Marker Km 18 lies 18km west of the city. There are numerous bars and restaurants here. At 1800m it's pleasantly cool, and the nearby cloud forest is an Important Bird Area (see www.mapalina.com for details of the species found here) with high biodiversity. The walk from here to the small town of Dapa (four hours) – off the Cali–Yumbo road – is a pleasant stroll. There are numerous crossroads – always take the left-hand fork.
There are regular bus services to Km 18 from the bus terminal (COP$2000, 45 minutes). Buses and jeeps service Dapa every half hour (COP$3500, 30 minutes) from Sameco in the north of Cali.
Many visitors come to Cali to learn to dance salsa, whether it be the city's own high-energy version or more traditional styles. There are many professional salsa schools around town, each with their own character and methodology. Expect to pay from COP$40,000 to COP$85,000 per hour for private lessons with discounts offered if you pay for blocks of classes in advance.
Some visitors choose to learn Spanish at the same time, alternating dance and language classes. In Cali there are large educational institutions and small private language centers offering classes for travelers.
For a taste of Cali's colonial origins, lay your head in laid-back San Antonio; nearby residential area Miraflores is calmer but still within walking distance of the action. If you're after high-end accommodations and nightlife head for Granada.
The best cheap eats in town are in and around La Galeria in Alameda, a colorful local market with plenty of small lunch counters serving seafood and comidas tipicas (typical food).
Drinking & Nightlife
Many caleños don't really go out drinking, they go out to dance. For a low-key night out head to Parque del Perro, home to numerous small bars. Just north of Cali is Menga with many large discos. Further afield, several large salsatecas (salsa dance clubs) cluster in legendary Juanchito, although the area no longer attracts crowds like it once did.
Cali's Carrot Law
Closing time in Cali is referred to as the ley zanahoria (carrot law), because it's said that you'd have to be boring as a carrot to go home that early (at present, 3am on weekends).
For the latest on what's on around town, check the entertainment columns of Cali's broadsheet, El País (www.elpais.com.co).