La Serena is a seaside resort in Chile. While not well-known outside of the country, it is famous in Chile, because of its long sandy beaches. It has also a lovely historical center, which dates back to the colonial time.
While visiting a hostel in La Serena don’t miss the small beach shacks which serve the freshest fish you can dream of, and a cheap ceviche (a Chilean speciality, marinated raw fish in lemon juice and spices) which is to die for. There are also plenty of places for the avid shopper, or for the backpacker, to reload on items before going back to the countryside.
When staying at a La Serena hostel there are a few day-trip type attractions to visit nearby such as the Indian Petroglyphs (engravings in the rocks). Some of the travel agencies offer organized trips to the main attractions. Not using them will require having your own car or a lot of planning and willingness to walk, along with a good mastery of Chilean (a dialect of Spanish, which can be hard to understand if you are only familiar with the Spanish or Mexican versions). If you are into stars, you must visit the nearby observatories, since several of the largest ones are near La Serena, because the city has one of the clearest views of the sky in the world.
La Serena is a few hours from Santiago by bus. The main bus station is a few hundred yards from the historical center. So when choosing your hostel in La Serena, try to pick one in the historical center. It’s most likely that your hostel room will open directly to an internal patio so that you can enjoy the colonial lifestyle but make sure you keep all your belongings secured at all times, since many robbers target tourists, even though the police are noticeably present in the city.