Always on the lookout for a new challenge, I visited Costa Rica's Vista Guapa Surf Camp [Jaco, Puntarenas; www.vistaguapa.com; doubles from $500 for two nights]. The camp is an adventure-oriented getaway with the luxury of an upscale resort, and all three bungalows have spectacular views of the black-sand beach and surrounding rain forest. A 3-to-1 student-teacher ratio guarantees that each guest receives individual attention. For those not interested in watersports, there are nature guides who bring guests to the Manuel Antonio Reserve to see three-toed sloths and explore the jungle. —Laaura Maloney, via e-mail
I’d like to spend time in the Alps this winter. Any recommendations for great hotels with in-room fireplaces?
—Carlos Rogers, San Diego, Calif.
In the remote foothills of the Italian Dolomites, check into the Hotel & Spa Rosa Alpina (20 Strada Micura de Ru; 39-047/1084-9500; www.rosaalpina.it; doubles from $400), a family-owned, 18th-century hotel. Book one of the four suites with an open hearth and vistas of the craggy, snowcapped peaks. For Mont Blanc views of the French Alps in the Chamonix Valley, try the Hameau Albert Premier (38 Rte. du Bouchet, Chamonix Mont Blanc; 33-4/50-53-05-09; www.hameaualbert.fr; doubles from $203). The newly renovated hotel has 14 in-room fireplaces; we like the Farmhouse rooms, set in a smaller, rustic chalet on-site. And the competent staff at Gstaad’s Grand Bellevue Hotel (+) will arrange a sleigh ride, a snowshoe walk, ice skating, or guided glacier skiing to put you in the mood for an evening in front of your glassed-in en-suite fireplace.
I’m going to Zanzibar and would love to take a spice tour. Ideas?
—Holly Hill, Washington, D.C.
Spice trading on this island off the east coast of Tanzania dates back to the 17th century. The experts at Premier Tours (800/545-1910; www.premiertours.com; tours from $75) will show you the grandeur that Zanzibar’s spices helped to pay for—the ruins of Maruhubi Palace and the Persian baths, both built by former ruler Sultan Barghash—before taking you to the vanilla bean, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon plantations. And seasoned locals are your guides at Tanzania Adventure (255-24/223-2119; www.tanzania-adventure.com; tours from $60 per person). You’ll learn about medicinal and cosmetic uses for spices, then sit down to a feast showcasing locally grown lemongrass, cloves, and cardamom. If you’re going on a safari in Tanzania, check with your operator—many offer excursions to Zanzibar and arrange spice tours.
On my last adventure trip, I packed very expensive gear, which the airline misplaced for several days. Can I be compensated for delayed luggage?
—Jill Dauner, Miami, Fla.
Unfortunately, if bags are recovered within 60 days, beyond payment for toiletries and basic clothing, there is no uniform airline compensation policy. John Lampl, spokesperson for British Airways, advises writing to your carrier’s customer-service department: "Airlines respond to reasonable requests as a means of building strong customer loyalty." Be sure to read the terms of transportation on the ticket jacket, and be very detailed when making a claim. If they won’t reimburse you, ask for a travel voucher, frequent-flier miles, or an upgrade certificate.
Where can I find a seriously secluded retreat in Hawaii?
—Chet White, Chicago, Ill.
On the Big Island, Kona Village Resort (Queen Kaahumanu Hwy., Kailua-Kona; 800/ 367-5290; www.konavillage.com; doubles from $580) has isolated thatched- roof bungalows set on black-and white-sand beaches. And only insiders know about Molokai, a tiny island where Dunbar Beachfront Cottages (Mile 19, Hwy. 450 E., Kaunakakai; 800/673-0520; www.molokai-beachfront-cottages.com; cottages from $170) rents tidy, hidden-away dwellings. For privacy with proximity to a lava-stone massage, book the Plantation House—set on your very own four acres of tropical paradise—at the Hotel Hana Maui (5031 Hana Hwy., Hana; 800/ 321-4262; www.hotelhanamaui.com; $4,000 per night).