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Culture, science blend at Hawaii Volcanoes park fest on Big Island

A cultural festival and a serious scientific study will blend in May at the Big Island's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The park will join forces with National Geographic for a two-day adventure that will connect the dots between the park's flora and fauna and the traditions of Hawaii's native population.

The park, at the southern end of the Big Island of Hawaii, will hold a Biodiversity & Cultural Festival May 15-16 to coincide with the research to be conducted as part of National Geographic's BioBlitz.

Working alongside more than 150 scientists and Hawaiian cultural practitioners, thousands of people are expected to fan out across the park to document its animal and plant life, both in recent lava flows and nearby rainforests.

Participants will learn about endangered endemic species such as the nene, a Hawaiian goose, and the Mauna Loa silversword, a plant that flowers only once during its lifetime.

Participation is free, but pre-registration is required. Children 8 and older can take...

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Want to help rebuild Nepal? Projects Abroad is organizing relief trips

More than 7,200 people have died in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, and the need for aid continues to be desperate. Projects Abroad is heeding the call for help.

The nonprofit organization that pairs adventurous travelers with short-term volunteer programs around the world is seeking participants for its new Nepal Disaster Relief Program, it announced Monday.

Participants are needed to rebuild homes and schools, teach in and assemble tent schools at camps for displaced families, and help in many other relief activities. They will work with 10 to 15 staff members the organization has in Nepal, all of whom survived the deadly quake.

"It's important work, and it's going to be emotionally difficult work in a lot of cases, but there will be assistance along the way," said spokesman Christian Clark.

The organization, headquartered in England, has been operating volunteer programs in the country since 1999 and plans to organize work teams to support on-the-ground staff.

...

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Las Vegas: Cosmopolitan hotel to offer Apple Pay, but not for gambling

Apple Pay is coming to Las Vegas hotels, and the Cosmopolitan is leading the way.

The hotel-casino will offer guests the option of using electronic wallets starting in June. Guests can use Apple Pay for a hotel or bar bill, VIP services and purchases at some stores.

Apple Pay was rolled out last fall. Retailers from the Disney Store to McDonald's already accept such payments on contactless pay point terminals from those who use their iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and now Apple Watch.

JetBlue in February started accepting Apple Pay for fliers who buy snack boxes, beverages and seat upgrades. The airline says all flights will feature Apple Pay by June.

But it hasn't taken off big-time, though Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has dubbed 2015 "the year of Apple Pay." And it's not the only game in town.

The terminals at the Cosmopolitan also will accommodate Google Wallet and other forms of electronic payments.

Why now? What the hotel calls its "curious class" of travelers values the "integration of...

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Gear: Thanks to magnets, this mount for devices works like magic

There are many ways to mount electronic devices in your car, but Scosche's new MagicMount system has some particularly gripping features.

The core magnetic unit, a 2-inch-square, half-inch-thick disk, contains strong magnets. Just hover a magnetic metal object near the disk, and you'll feel it pulling the object toward it, then holding firm.

Each disk is configured to mount onto a specific Scosche base. The flexible rubber MagicMount Mat works with GPS devices, cellphones and tablets.

The MagicMount XL Surface is a flat core magnetic unit with a strong adhesive backing that mounts electronic devices flush on most surfaces.

Each mount comes with two slim magnetic plates (a large 2 1/2 -inch-square plate for tablets, and a small inch-plus-square plate for phones).

Info: MagicMount Mat costs $39.99; MagicMount XL Surface costs $24.99.

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Another early opening for Tioga Road, Yosemite's major east-west route

Tioga Road, the east-west roadway in Yosemite National Park that allows visitors to cross the Sierra, opens for the season Monday. It's among the earliest opening dates for the road that closes in winter because of snow and ice -- two things in short supply this year.

The road, a.k.a. California Highway 120, was scheduled to open at 8 a.m., according to a park announcement.

But that doesn't mean driving the route from Yosemite's west and south entrances to Tuolumne Meadows and the park's backcountry will be a snap. Road work between Crane Flat and White Wolf campgrounds in the western part of the park are expected to delay drivers.

Last year Tioga Road opened May 2, the earliest date since 1980. The average opening date is May 27.

California's low snowpack prompted the opening of Glacier Point Road on March 28, the earliest in 20 years, this year. Half Dome's cables for hikers who want to make the trek to the top of the iconic granite wall were put up last Saturday, three weeks ahead of...

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Deal: $50 daily credit at Marriott's Caribbean and Mexican resorts

Marriott offers travelers $50 in resort credit at a dozen hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico. You must stay three days to receive the credit that can be used for restaurants, spa treatments and other extras.

The deal: The Spring Getaway is good at three resorts in Mexico: CasaMagna Marriott Cancun ResortCasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa and JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa. Other locations include Aruba, Grand Cayman, St. Kitts and Nevis, Curacao and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Use the code "4CL" when making a reservation online or by phone. Note the resort credit with this deal is capped at $250 (a five-night stay). To find the list of participating hotels, go to Marriott's Caribbean & Mexico Resorts page and click on "Special Offers."

When: The offer is good through May 14 for travel through June 30.

Tested: I found availability June 12-15 at the Cancun Resort & Spa for a room with balcony starting at $231 a night, excluding tax. I also found a pool-view room for the same nights...

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