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Reader recommendation: Rio de Janeiro tour guide Marco Madeira

I can't help but recommend Marco Madeira. He is a great guide: knowledgeable, funny and made our visit to Rio de Janeiro a superb experience. A full day in Rio (six to eight hours) costs $270 and includes Sugarloaf Mountain, the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the old part of the city. Price includes car and tour guide but not admission tickets.

Marco Madeira,

Tryg Sletteland

By email

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Video: Time flies (and tourists look antsy) at the Grand Canyon

You have to see the Grand Canyon. It’s one of the very few sites in North America that justify use of the word “awesome.”

But when you do get to the South Rim, the hub of Grand Canyon National Park, you also have to expect that you won’t be alone. This video shows the canyon’s beauty and heavy tourist traffic all at the same time. (Because the video is accelerated, the tourists look not only tiny but very busy. In a word, antsy.)

As the video notes, in its first year as a national park, in 1919, the Grand Canyon drew about 37,000 recreational visitors. The park gets that many in three typical days now.

For more on the canyon -- a lot more -- check out this package of photos, stories and video.

“A Minute Away” is a video series in which nothing much happens -- except you see the world, and hear it, and get a respite from workaday life. We’ve covered Machu Picchu, Red Square, the Yucatan, the Alamo, an Alaskan float plane and the reading room of the New York Public Library, among other places....

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Zoom in on National Park Foundation's 'Share the Experience' photo contest

Can you find a more touching mother and child portrait in a national park? The photograph of a polar bear cuddling with her cub at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska took top prize in the National Park Foundation's 2014 "Share the Experience" photo contest.

Cameron Teller of Seattle took the winning photo, which also will appear on an annual Federal Recreational Lands Pass. He received $10,000 and other goodies.

His submission was selected from nearly 22,000 photographs from amateur photographers who made the pictures on public federal lands. National parks, preserves, historic sites, lands managed by federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife all quality.

Second place and $5,000 goes to a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, not your typical wild lands shot. Eric DaBrea of Chico, Calif., took the photo around sunset from Marshall Beach, south of Fort Point. It's part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

An image...

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Deal: Get a third night free at nine Hong Kong hotels

Dorsett Hotels is offering a third night free in May or June at nine hotels in Hong Kong.

The deal: The free night applies to hotels including the Kwun Tong, Dorsett MongkokDorsett Tsuen Wan and Cosmpolitan Hotel in the Wan Chai neighborhood. The hotels toss in extras such as free Wi-Fi, a pillow menu (you get to choose) and use of an iPad during your stay.

The third free night is based on reserving a room at the best available rate. Bookings must be paid in full, and no refunds are allowed.

When: The offer is good now through May 6. It's good for stays from Sunday through June 30, based on availability.

Tested: I searched on random dates (May 8 to 11) online at the Dorsett Kwun Tong in Kowloon East. I found availability for the third night free deal on a standard double room. Price for the three-night stay with tax: $266.

I checked same dates for the Lan Kwai Fond Hotel at Kau U Fong and found availability for a city view room. Price for the three-night stay with tax: $401.

Info: Dorsett...

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Alaska to begin flights between L.A. and Costa Rica in the fall

Alaska Airlines plans new flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to two airports in Costa Rica starting Oct. 31. The airline announced Thursday it would add eight weekly flights on the new routes.

Alaska plans to fly to the capital of San Jose (SJO) and to Liberia/Guanacaste (LIR), about 130 miles away.

Starting Oct. 31, flights leave L.A. at 8:40 a.m. and return from San Jose at 5:35 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays.

Starting Nov. 1, flights leave L.A. at 8:50 a.m. and return from Liberia at 5:25 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

In other new service at LAX, Mexican budget airline Volaris plans to start flights between the city of Leon in Guanajuato, Mexico, and Los Angeles starting June 8.

Flights leave Leon at 8:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays; return flights from L.A. to Leon leave at 11:30 a.m. on the same days. Introductory fares start at $155 each way.

Info: Alaska Airlines, (800) 252-7522; Volaris, (866) 988-3527




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Airfare: KLM offers a $765 round trip from LAX to South Africa

You can fly on KLM to Cape Town, South Africa, for $765 round trip, including all taxes and fees.

Cape Town is about 3,500 miles farther than London is from LAX. The airfare chart that will appear in the Sunday Travel section shows a range of fares to London from LAX of $1,096 to $1,554.

The KLM fare, which is higher in July, is subject to availability. You must stay over a Saturday night, but you not stay more than a year.

A seven-day advance purchase is required for departures through November.

Info: KLM, (800) 225-2525.







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