Southwest of Bogota, Colombia you find the city of Cali – plastic surgery and salsa capital of the western world. The Río Cali divides the city into two main districts which give visitors enough to occupy a few days. South of Río Cali lies the more interesting yet dirty Historic District and to the North is the trendy Modern District. Days are best spent visiting the churches, plazas and massive market in the historic part of town and nights are most lively in the Modern District where most youth hostels, restaurants and clubs are located.
Authentic Colombian culture is hard to find in Cali – the bars are westernized and the hostels are gringo filled. If you’re not there for a nose job, you’re probably there to party.
If plastic surgery is what brought you to Cali you won’t be disappointed. Plastic surgery is cheap, professional and available. For around $25 USD you can book a personal consultation with a surgeon and for the price of a luxury hotel you can reserve your stay at a recovery spa and resort.
The other side of Cali is the salsa dancing. Enhanced breasts and implanted buttocks hit the dance floor almost every night in Cali – but with less splendour and pizzazz than you would expect from a salsa obsessed population. Entertaining beginner salsa lessons are offered at many hostels around Cali and are aimed at giving tourists enough confidence to step foot on the dance floor. But if you are looking for a weeklong or month long intermediate or advanced course, you will be hard-pressed to find quality instruction unless you join one of the long-term dance academies and pay the hefty fee.
Juanchito is the salsa district far outside the centre of Cali. The pricy cab fare and bottle service will put a dent in your wallet and you may be surprised by the type of dancing you see. Cali is top in the international competitive salsa scene, but as for the remaining population of non-competitive dancers, they groove in a close, sensual way but rarely ever twirl, twist or dip. They dance for themselves and not for an audience.
Most tourists see Cali as a place to let loose and ride the Chiva party bus until the sun comes up, others come to Cali to experience the salsa culture which can be hard to truly grasp as a visitor. Either way, Cali can be expensive, cosmopolitan and a little dull culturally. On the other hand, you see real people live their ordinary lives and it’s reminiscent of any North American metropolis. A trip to Cali may cure that touch of homesickness and get you geared up for more cultural experiences of central and northern Colombia.
Río Cali and the central park – During the day street vendors sell corn on the cob and candy floss making for a pleasant stroll along the riverside. Night brings a seedy crowd and muggings are prevalent. During the Christmas season fantastic light displays and floats decorate the park and river and draw large crowds making night strolls perfectly safe. Free salsa shows on holidays.
Cali Zoo – This impressive collection of animals is a great way to bring out your inner child and escape the traffic and pollution of the city.
Iglesia de la Merced – Calle 7 and Carrera 4, Historic District, Cali.
Iglesia de la Ermita – Avenida Colombia and Calle 13, Historic District, Cali.
Catedral San Pedro – Located across from the Plaza de Caycedo in the Historic District.
Plaza de Caycedo – This centrally located plaza in the Historic District is great for people watching and rests between shopping at the nearby bargain shops and market which start at Calle 12 and Carrera 5 and continue away from the Plaza de Caycedo.
Juanchito Nightlife – The suburban salsa neighbourhood of Juanchito is a ten to thirty minute taxi ride away from the centre of Cali depending on traffic and your taxi driver. The area can be dangerous at night so bring only what you need and leave valuables back at the hotel.
– You feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you arrive at Changó Salsoteca. Old school parking attendants in suits and gloves greet you cordially and a red velvet carpet leads into the Sinatra inspired crooners lounge complete with red lit bar and mood lighting. Mostly couples and large groups, mature local crowd. Open 7PM-6AM. Km 3 Route to Cavasa, Juanchito, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 662-9701
Agapito – More of a tropical feel and less upscale than Changó but just as expensive. Best on Saturdays after midnight. Km 3 Route to Cavasa, Juanchito, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 435-9081
Menga Nightlife – The newest and hippest place to party in Cali. Many large scale discos dot the Menga neighbourhood and must be reached by taxi or car.
– More goes on at Praga than just dancing and drinking. A rowdy place to party with locals. Km 1 on the Old Cali-Yumbo Route, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 691-4646
– Check listings for the ever-changing event schedule. Km 2 on the Old Cali-Yumbo Route, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 664-1165
Avenida Sexta Nightlife – This street is lined with theme bars, salsa haunts and upscale Miami Beach style lounges. Most bars are free cover but are strict on minimum consumption. Avenida 6N between Calle 17N and Calle 14N, Modern District, Cali.
El Viejo Barril – The awesome wraparound patio is prime people watching territory. Bachata, salsa and meringue turns into reggaeton and dance as the night progresses. Avenida 6N, 15-05, Modern District, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 668-8007
Mr. Babilla – This lounge and disco is crawling with drug deals and its subsequent usage. Be wary of who you associate with. Avenida 6N, 15-79, Modern District, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 661-2882
Centro Comercial Chipichape
– If you’re not in the mood for a big night out, a popular locale for casual drinks and a bite to eat is the Chipichape Mall. The atmosphere is less stuffy and snooty than many of Cali’s discos. Calle 38N, 6N-35, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 659-2198
Budget Hotels Cali
- A love motel with a family feel. Designated areas for short-term guests make staying at Hotel Sartor a fine option for travelers on a tight budget. Closet-size rooms with private bathroom and TV available for a third of the price of a normal hostel dorm bed in Cali. Avenida 8N, 20-50, Modern District, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 668-6482
- A warm feminine touch and free salsa and yoga lessons for guests make Jovita’s a wonderful and inviting place to stay. The hostel caters mainly to female travelers but of course men are more than welcome! Calle 4, 5-43, Historic District, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 893-8342
Iguana Guest House
- There have been past complaints of bed bugs at the Iguana, so take a look before committing. Ask about booking a salsa class. Calle 21N, 9N-22, Modern District, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 661-3522
- A great place to meet other travelers. Plenty of open space, hammocks, free Internet, guest kitchen and security. Salsa classes available, teacher will come to the hostel and use the terrace space for the class. Calle 17N, 9AN-39, Modern District, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 661-2338
Midrange Hotels Cali
San Antonio Boutique Hotel
- tele: (57-2) 524-6364
- Not as plush or luxurious as some other Cali hotels – but guests are given a more traditional Colombian experience without compromising comfort and quality. Carrera 6, 2-51, Cali. Tel.
Hotel Astoria Close to the hustle and bustle of the Historic District. Calle 11, 5-16, Historic District, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 668-6482
Hostal Casa Aguacanela
- Decorated with a medley of rustic pieces and a mosaic of colors, this hostel has a cozy B+B feel. Carrera 24A, 2A-55, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 556-8382
Cali Plaza Hotel
- A bit outdated but a comfortable place to call home base while you explore the city. Calle 15N, 6N-37, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 668-2611
Luxury Hotels Cali
- A modern and stylish lobby and bar await you. Don’t be fooled by the unremarkable exterior. Calle 18N, 4N-08, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 685-9999
- North American standards and a wide range of guest services and amenities. Avenida Colombia, 2-72, Cali. Tel. (57-2) 882-3225
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