It was like a dream. Something you only see in the movies. I was new to the city and didn’t know much about nightlife in Cali, Colombia. But my buddy had been taking Spanish classes and got invited to a party. He asked me if I wanted to roll. Of course, I did!
The taxi dropped us off in front of a random, large house in the south of the city. I knew nothing about the area at the time and there didn’t seem to be much going on from the outside. I gave my buddy a sideways glance.
It looked weak, but we had already taken a taxi twenty minutes south. We were going to check it out. We walked around to the side of the house and saw security. Huh? Two security guards with guns were standing at the entrance, along with one of the hosts. A bit odd.
Apparently, it was $12 USD to enter. That included an open bar all night. We chatted and I asked if there were people inside. We couldn’t hear or see anything. The party host claimed it was popping, so we paid up.
The host gave us wristbands and walked us inside. We headed down a long, dark corridor for what seemed like a minute before she opened a door and we finally witnessed the best party of my life.
My expectations were low. Hell, they were non-existent. I certainly wasn’t expecting what we were about to enjoy…
The open door led to the backyard of an old mansion that used to be owned by a member of the Cali Cartel. A backyard filled with a massive swimming pool, slide, hot tub, sauna, dancefloor, and more.
Reggaeton blared from an impressive sound system, as dozens of Caleñas in skimpy swimsuits darted around. The eye candy was more than enough to keep me around all night, and things just kept getting better.
Cali girls…Dios mio!
My buddy and I must have been drolling as the waitress walked up and asked if we wanted a drink. Yeah, something strong.
We followed her to the bar while picking our jaws off the floor. It was gonna be a great night.
And one hell of a night it was!
We drank way more than our $12 USD worth, flirted with sexy Calenas in bikinis, danced some salsa, abused substances well-known around Cali, and generally acted like abject degenerates until the wee hours of the morning.
I distinctly remember one point in the evening. In the midst of all the chaos, everything slowed down and I wondered, “Is this really my life?”
I’d enjoyed a few complimentary party favors with my buddy, headed straight to the dance floor to learn a little salsa, then jumped into the 18-person hot tub before making out with a stunning Caleña who spoke no English. Life was great.
Now, nightlife in Cali, Colombia isn’t always this amazing. In fact, I’d argue nightlife in Bogota is generally better than in Cali.
But, enough with my degenerate reminiscing, let’s dive into this piece and deliver the details on Cali, Colombia nightlife.
Dancing Salsa in Cali, Colombia?
First and foremost, you need to know one thing about Cali, Colombia nightlife:
Cali, Colombia is the salsa dancing capital of the world!
If you don’t like dancing salsa or aren’t willing to learn, you might not enjoy partying in Cali. It’s damn near impossible to enjoy a big night out in the city without salsa dancing.
Why? Because the vast majority of clubs are either salsa bars or crossover clubs. While crossover clubs claim to play a variety of music, they play generally play salsa a majority of the time in Cali, Colombia.
That’s just the way things go in the city. Luckily, there’s nowhere better to learn some salsa dancing than in Cali. There are over 200 salsa schools in Cali, Colombia (Source).
You’ll find classes to fit every budget here, along with reasonably priced private lessons – if that’s something you’re interested in.
If you’re looking to take lessons or join classes, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sabor Manicero. Click here to learn more.
World famous salsa bar in Cali, Colombia.
How Important is Speaking Spanish?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it, again – Cali, Colombia doesn’t see nearly as many tourists as Bogota or Medellin. As such, English levels aren’t great in the city.
You’ll want to speak a little Spanish before you arrive in Cali. It’ll make your experience in the city so much better, especially at night. Salsa bars and clubs are made for dancing, but they’re generally easier to have conversations in, too. The music isn’t as loud as it is when they play reggaeton or electronic music.
Learn a little Spanish. If you’re ever in a sticky situation, you’ll want to understand what people are saying. By understanding a little Spanish, you can keep a sticky situation from turning dire.
Don’t underestimate the importance of being able to politely tell that friendly fellow in Spanish that you weren’t staring at his girlfriend’s gigantic Caleña ass but simply admiring her salsa dancing skills 😉
While we’ve discussed safety, salsa dancing, and the importance of speaking Spanish while partying in Cali, Colombia – there are a few more things you should know.
First, nightlife culture in Cali is a little different. Where people in Bogota enjoy mingling around, Cali is the exact opposite. If you roll to a bar or club solo and trying to chat up strangers in groups, they’ll look at you like a damn leper.
Cali is a big city, but most Caleños still hang out with people they’ve known their whole life. You’ll see more big groups at bars and clubs here than almost anywhere else. Suffice to say, it’s not a great place to “Conquistar” – if you know what I mean.
Hell, some clubs won’t even let you in unless you have a date with you, especially if you look gringo.
If you’re going out alone in Cali, Colombia, I’d recommend sticking to some of the gringo-friendly spots and the mid-week salsa nights. Click here for gringo events in Cali, Colombia. If you roll up to Menga solo, it’ll end up being a huge waste of time.
You’re much better off trying to get a date or putting together a group to hit the bars and clubs on a Saturday night. That’s just the social norm here.
A Gringo’s Guide to Nightlife in Cali, Colombia
Below you’ll find the best places to enjoy the nightlife in Cali, Colombia. While this whole piece could be about salsa bars, your boy enjoys a little perreando from time to time. So, I tried to include a little variety here:
La Topa Tolondra: Famous salsa bar that’s popular with gringos andCaleños. Weekends are good, but I’d recommend checking this spot out any Monday night you’re bored. La Topa Tolondra is the best thing to do on a Monday night in Cali, Colombia!
Tintindeo: Another famous salsa bar in Cali around the Parque del Perro area. You’ll find gringos here, but not as many as La Topa Tolondra. Overall, Tintindeo is a great place if you’re serious about salsa dancing. If not, don’t come.
Zaperoco Salsa Bar: While Zaperoco isn’t as famous as the other popular salsa bars above, it’s located in Granada – the best neighborhood in Cali for travelers. If you want to dance a little salsa while staying in Granada, start here.
Granada is a neighborhood in Cali, Colombia that’s ideal for gringos. There’s bars, clubs, gyms, cafes, and restaurants. You can walk to everything if you stay here and it’s pretty damn safe. Highly recommended.
Here are a few solid nightlife options in Barrio Granada:
Quickly Shots: I almost got jumped at Quickly Shots after an unfortunate encounter with a Caleña while her boyfriend watched. The worst part? It was all her fault. Soy juicioso. That being said – this is a reggaeton and trap club in Granada. It gets packed on the weekend, but it’s small. Bring a date or a few friends.
El Viejo Barril: My buddy swears by this bar in Granada. The open-air spot is well-known and always full, but the vibe never enticed me. Still, it’s a great place to start a night before heading out to Menga.
Antaño Cervecería Artesanal: My favorite craft beer spot in Granada. If you’re looking to have a few beers with buddies or a date, Antaño Cervecería Artesanal is the place to go in Granada.
Bourbon St.: This is the gringo hangout in Granada. Bourbon St. is a rock bar that usually has live music on the weekends. While it’s never too wild here, there’s typically a pretty good crowd. A great place to start the night. Just don’t eat here. The food sucks.
Bourbon St. in Cali, Colombia.
Menga is an area to the north of Cali. The neighborhood is filled with some of the biggest and baddest clubs in Cali, Colombia. Most clubs and bars in Menga claim to be “crossover” clubs, but they generally play salsa and more salsa.
Here are some of the famous clubs in Menga:
Café Mi Tierra: My absolute favorite club in Menga is Café Mi Tierra. The open-air club gets absolutely packed with middle-class Caleños on the weekend. People are friendly here and prices are cheap. Highly recommended.
Living Club: Giant club in Menga that’s pretty damn famous. You won’t get in here without a date, especially if you’re a gringo and it’s a weekend night. Expect a lot of salsa here.
Lolas: Another large club in Menga. While similar to Living Club, they actually play crossover music here. Again, don’t expect to get in without a date or a group of girls with you. For the most part, packs of horny gringos won’t be allowed in. My buddy and I got denied entry with the swiftness.
Other Clubs in Cali, Colombia
La Purga: If you’re looking for a decent sized club that plays reggaeton and trap music in Cali, Colombia – La Purga might be your best bet. Just to let you know – it attracts a lot of the LGBT community, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I had a hell of a time here, as the vibe is pretty damn fun.
Levels Rooftop: Supposedly this place hosts a “Gringo Wednesday” that occasionally attracts a crowd, but I’ve never been. My buddy went a few times and said the setup is solid, but it’s hit or miss whether Levels Rooftop gets a crowd.
Sonido Central: The spot for electronic and house music in Cali, Colombia. Located in the center near Granada, you’ll want to take a taxi to and from this club. The area is sketchy, but expect a good crowd on weekends.
Mazao Park: I was surprised the first time I went to Mazao Park. It was a damn good time. The nightlife here is the best you’ll find on Tuesday nights, as the club hosts a cultural exchange that turns into a party. I’ve never been on weekends, but it might be alright on Saturdays, especially if you’re staying near Parque del Perro.
Nightlife in Cali, Colombia – Overall
If you’ve ever wanted to party in the salsa dancing capital of the world, this post should help you do it. I detailed every single thing I know about nightlife in Cali, Colombia.
If I missed anything, let me know. Sound off in the comments and let this gringo know what he missed. And of course, I can dance a little salsa. Don’t doubt these gringo hips, maricas.
Ya Tu Sabes.
Don’t forget to learn a little Spanish before you go!
Travel junkie turned blogger. Location independent. From the Midwest, but often based in Latin America. Big on beaches, rumba, and rum. Addicted to the gym. Committed to showing a different style of travel - one that involves actually interacting with locals and exploring different cultures.