Cali is a great bustling city divided in clearly distinct neighborhoods each having its own character, looks and things to enjoy. We stayed in a hip neighborhood called San Antonio - rolling hills lined up with cute colonial houses, squares, little shops and cafes. Casa Cafe on the 5th street where we stayed is a really cute and cheap place ($15 per night for a private room), it has a cafe on the ground floor and several rooms, living room and kitchen on the second floor, the owner girl is super nice and chill.
Up the hill there is San Antonio park - a real equivalent to Dolores park in San Francisco. Every day and night it welcomes crowds of young people who just like to picnic, play games, relax, listen to music and enjoy the views over the city from the hill. There are often many performers, crafts and food vendors in the park as well - it’s really fun! Don’t miss the park’s “bobsleigh” track - up the hill by the church there is a paved, pretty steep curvy street heading up - that’s where you can take a plastic beer crate, go to the top and join the fun of riding down inside the beer crate, or just watch others do it - fun in any case! Around 5th street we found a lot of places that offer set menu - soup, second and juice for $4-5 - it’s a great value and the food is excellent (we especially liked the lunches at the Middle Eastern place)
There is also a nice continuation of San Antonio neighborhood going around the hill - if you continue on 2nd or 3rd street further - funky, artsy and hip oasis right next to a heavy traffic road that hosts museums, banks and more expensive hotels.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday are hardcore party nights in Cali - there are literally hundreds of places with life music and salsa dancing in Cali. After all, Cali is the salsa capital of the world, and Caleños sure like to dance! Many salsa clubs are located in the Northern part of the city where there is no limit to the closing hours, so salsa goes on till breakfast time! Don’t miss it and immerse yourself into the dance scene, or even better - take a couple of salsa classes in Cali before you join the fun.
We also liked hanging out North of the 5-6th Avenue - it’s a very green, cozy neighborhood that turns into a bit more posh party scene around 18th street. You can also find supermarkets, malls, cafes and plenty of restaurants in there.
They say Cali is not a very safe city (popular thing people say about most places in Colombia), but we haven’t really felt unsafe, common sense works well plus you can ask the locals/hostel about the better to avoid areas. For us it seemed that perhaps the strip along the 5th street towards the stadium, central market area and Northern parts close to the bus station should not be walked alone after dark.
We enjoyed Cali a lot and wish we learned salsa properly!