This scenic, salsa-mad Colombian city dances to its own beat with hotels that skip from storied to sumptuous.
Cool Cali – vibrant capital of the Valle del Cauca in southwest Colombia, dominated by its 31m (101ft) statue of Cristo Rey cresting a nearby hill – is a hotbed of salsa, a photogenic center of colonial architecture studded by some magnificent churches and an established gastronomic hub. When you visit, you’ll likely be staying a while and these hotels help make your time here all the more memorable.
Up in Cali’s San Antonio area, famous for its Spanish colonial-era buildings, Alko Hotel Casa Nispero boasts a beautiful, white colonial facade with a gorgeous set of wood-slatted windows and balcony. Within, it manages to retain venerable features while still displaying deft contemporary touches. In the four gob-smackingly giant suites, expect jacuzzis, private terraces and many other special features. One suite has atmospheric wooden beams, another even has a wine cave. We approve.
Few people who know this hotel north of the Cali River disagree that it deserves mention in any conversation about the city’s best stays. It’s been serving visitors to Cali for more than 50 years, and not only is the building winsomely colonial, but there are two swimming pools, a restaurant and a gym. Divine public areas – terraces lapping fecund gardens, high-ceilinged lounges and a restaurant – are memorable, but it’s this combined with attentive service that ensure this lodging endures as a must to return to.
This hotel is as trendy as the Granada neighbourhood it sits within. The Now stands for Not Only White; behind its handsome, white, Art Deco-esque facade (peppered by candy-coloured windows) much more is going on. Generally considered Cali’s first true boutique hotel, the 19 rooms all have their own personality, backed by artsy photographs, and benefitting from Danish BoConcept, Italian Parri Design designer furniture and 400-thread cotton sheets. A distinctive red-tiled rooftop pool provides decadent downtime.
The Malik Hotel is another stylish sleepover in the leafy Ciudad Jardín area, near Humedal la Babilla park with its pretty, palm-fringed lake. Known as a haven of tranquility, there are three categories of room here, with double superiors and spacious junior suites, enhanced by terraces or balconies. Free private parking is a bonus, and there’s a serene outdoor pool.
On the Cali River close to arguably the finest of Cali’s churches – the wedding-cake-esque Iglesia la Ermita – Hotel Farranda combines different looks in its audacious decor: the Art Deco, the sleek and the bold and colour schemes that tip from taupe to bright turquoise. Of the 50 small-to-medium-sized rooms, even entry-level digs have minibars and balconies. There’s a rooftop terrace offering lovely city vistas, a spa with a sauna and jacuzzi and a first-floor Italian-inspired restaurant to feast at.
A seminal work of Latin American fiction, Maria by Jorge Isaacs (1867), is about a protagonist forced through circumstance to abandon his beloved Valle de Cauca. Isaacs was born in Cali and the style of this swanky, balconied Granada lodging is inspired by the author and his prose. The writer would have felt at home in the grand, vine-trailed atrium, but there are crisp contemporary touches, too, as in La Maria restaurant, known for novel takes on traditional Pacific Colombian cuisine.
The green Ciudad Jardín (garden city) neighbourhood accounts for several of Cali’s most stylish hotels, including this boutique number featuring six swanky loft apartments. These contemporary two-floor digs each have their own private terrace and jacuzzi, and a 300ft (91m) sea-salt swimming pool awaits in the hotel’s grounds. In the verdant surrounds, nature puts on a show for guests: an iguana, perhaps, or a chipmunk may stop by to entertain.
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