Colombia’s Pacific Coast boasts a rugged landscape where waterfalls cascade down forested mountains onto nearly deserted beaches of gray sand. Thermal pools lie secluded in lush jungles, without entry fees or tourists, only adventurers willing to make the trek. Far from the cultivated beauty of manicured resorts, or the tame sands of Caribbean beaches, the Pacific Coast Colombia exudes a spirit among the wildest in the world.

Perhaps the most spectacular feature of this coastline is its diverse marine life. Whales, dolphins, and sea turtles come so close to shore, it is easy to witness them from a relaxing beach hammock, or dipping your toes in the surf. For those who want to experience the dense flora and fauna without the manufactured wildlife encounter, but would rather leave discovery in the hands of nature, the Pacific Coast is for you. Tourism infrastructure has yet to bring full access to the region, making experiences less predictable, but all the more rewarding when marine life and jungle plants do show off their wonders.

At the heart of the Pacific region is Cali, the self-proclaimed salsa capital of the world. With deep Afro-Colombian roots, Cali showcases the unique blend of cultures that harmoniously exist especially along the coastal regions. This is where fiestas, street parties, cumbia and curralao, and a cacophony of percussion instruments fill the streets at all hours of the day, and where patacones (plantains) and Viche (sugar cane alcohol) are the staple of any diet. During the day, you might never guess that the cheerful, laid back people of Cali become fiery dancers when the sun goes down. With numerous salsa schools available to visitors, it’s possible to come in as a novice and make great progress in the complex and sensual dance style.

Like all of Colombia, Cali places a high priority on it’s art. Visit one of the city’s modern or archaeological museums to get a feel for the artistic culture at the root of the steamy salsa tradition. True to its region, Cali is not a perfectly curated tourism creation. It attracts visitors with its spirit, the unruly and authentic fire of corazón.