Buses leave several times every hour from Santiago de Chile to La Serena. The trip takes 7-8 hours. Companies include Pullman Bus, TurBus and Flota Barrios. Available are regular buses, semi-cama and the first class salon-cama. Prices vary greatly.
LAN flies five times Su-F and four times on Saturday from Santiago de Chile to La Serena. Flight duration is 1 hour and a fully flexible ticket cost USD168 one way, USD305 return; advance non-flexible return tickets through the website may be much cheaper than the flexible one way price. There are also daily flights from Antofagasta. On Saturdays there is one flight from Copiapó and Calama. Sky Airline flies three times daily from Santiago de Chile and Antofagasta.
Buses leave several times every hour from La Serena to Valle del Elqui. The trip takes 1-2 hours. Ticket price: 2000-3000 CLP ($4-7 usd) depending on where you go. They leave every hour from the bus station.
In the Archeologigal Museum there is the only rapa nui moai (Easter Island) head to have toured Europe. Entry CLP600.
The nearby observatory is also open to the public.
If you are around in early Spring you might be lucky enough to see the desert in bloom. It happens in occasional years and is stunning.
Elqui Valley, one of the most beautiful, clear and brilliant nights you will ever see. Here you will find the main villages that you can easily do on a bike. Vicuña (where Gabriela Mistral was born, and where you can get to see how the Chilean Pisco is made) Pisco Elqui (ideal for a romantic escapade) Cochiguaz
Isla Damas where you can swim, walk along trails and to lookout points or go scuba diving and snorkelling. Once back on the mainland, stay the night at Punta de Choros, where cabins and camp sites will allow you to enjoy warm seaside evenings. 
Parque Nacional Fray Jorge, (You can enter the Fray Jorge National Park from the South by taking the North Pan-American highway to mile 241.7, and then taking a long side road to the West for 13.6 miles up to the main Park’s gate. This is a dirt road, but in good conditions year round.The best time to visit is on weekends from late October to November, during the entire flowering period. It will take you at least 4 hours to visit.), . January-February, Monday Through Sunday, open from 9am to 5pm, the rest of the year Monday through Sunday, from 9am to 4pm. There are picnic area and campsites -$8.000 per night- and a lodge for 5 persons -$25.000-. Domestic animals are not allowed. Bring a coat since the forest is cold. The admission ticket is $1.600, children $600. edit
The Japanese style (indeed, laid out by a Tokyo landscape architect) garden Jardin del Corazon is just west of the centre. It celebrates the 450th anniversary of La Serena, its ties with its Japanese friend Tenri and the export of Chilean ore to Japan. Plenty of ducks and geese in the pond, some fish and the odd turtle. Entry CLP600.
Beaches - La Serena has some of the country's longest stretches of beach. You can take a whole day walking from one end to another.
Observatory tours. The Elqui Valley outside La Serena has some of the best conditions for observing the sky, hence the many observatories, some open to the public doing tours from La Serena city at night. Tour prices including transport are about CLP15,000.
Observatorio Mamalluca, For more information: email@example.com – firstname.lastname@example.org Address: Calle Gabriela Mistral 260, oficina 1, Ilustre Municipalidad de Vicuña. Phone (51) 411352 / 209138 Fee: 4500 CLP ($9 usd) for adults and 1500 CLP ($3 USD) for kids from 3 to 12. Transportation (opcional)2000 CLP ($4 USD)
Observatorio La Silla, For more information: mail: email@example.com Address La Serena: ESO, Casilla 567, El Santo, 1538, La Serena Phone:(56-51) 225387, booking (56-2) 4633280. Fax (56-51) 215175
Tololo,  More Info: CTIO, Casilla 603, Colina El Pino s/n, La Serena. Phone: (56-51) 205200 Fax 205212
For more detailed information regarding the observatories go the seti.cl webpage Region
There is a cinema at the Mall Plaza, by the bus terminal
Papaya Juice - Sold all over the city, the papaya is grown locally.
Pisco - One of the national drink of Chile is brewed in the nearby Elqui Valley and is a must-try for every traveller, enjoyed either as a Pisco Sour (Pisco with lemon juice, sugar, and egg-white) or Piscola (Pisco with Cola).
Craftsmanship - Nice markets are held every summer and year-round.
The densest cluster of restaurants and fast food joints is around the intersection of O`Higgins and Eduardo de la Barra.
Daniella II, Av. Francisco de Aguirre. A set lunch may only set you back, 1500 CLP ($3 USD), you might find it's not worth it. This goes for home-made food, and not getting all sick.edit
Casona Dell 900, Av. Francisco de Aguirre. Has great BBQ meats served on a coal heated plateedit
Gary, Matta, getting to Francisco de Aguirre, in front of Alliance française. Good lunch, home-made food, and far cleaner than other places. The full menu goes up to 2000 CLP ($4 USD) including entrée, main course and dessert. Sodas, 800 CLP ($1,6 USD) edit
Subway La Serena, Huanhuali 85, costado sur de mall plaza, al lado de la shell, ☎ 051 673183 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . M-Th 09:00-22:00, F 09:00-22:30, Sa 12:00-22:30, Su 12:00-21:00. Variety is not as big as in the US, prices are slightly lower.edit
There are loads of options in town. The area from the bus station throughout the centre has at least one hostal on every block, and many fancier options, including package tour hotels along the beach.
Hostal El Punto, Andres Bello 979 (Centro), . Good breakfast until 10:30. It's known for it's good service and cleanliness. Dorm bed $8000, double from $17000 incl. breakfast. edit
Hostal Maria Casa, Las Rojas N°18 (just 3 minutes walking from the bus station), ☎ (56-09)74667433 (email@example.com), . Has excellent rooms with shared (always clean)bathrooms and kitchen, the possibility to make your own sandals thanks to Pancho and his workshop, a great variety of tours, organized by themselves, and the best is the assistance they give to passengers, they really make you feel at home, so don't hesitate in asking them for whatever you may need.dorms from $20 (low season). edit
Residencial Jofré, Regimiento Coquimbo, Central La Serena. Has excellent rooms with private bathrooms, hot water, shared kitchen facilities, TV room and free internet.US$23/double.. edit
Aji Verde Hostel, Vicuña 415, . Nice hostel neart the market. Member of HI get 10% discount. Staff helpfull, good kitchen / living room / terraza. Breakfast and internet included.dorms from $7500. edit
Hotel Palma de Mallorca, Cordovez 750. Very nice old hotel in central location; can be one of few places with rooms during high season.Single rooms for $20,000. edit