Beach ....... Local ........ Cheap ......
A.k.a. Rapa Nui
It’s arguably the most remote vacation spot on Earth, about 26 hours door-to-door starting from JFK and flying on LAN, the only airline that flies there. After a shower and a long nap at Explora’s new boutique lodge (a three-night all-inclusive trip starts at $1,794 per person; 866-750-6699 or explora.com), coordinate with the staff an itinerary based on your level of bravery. Go spelunking in the vast cave system, hike to the quarry where the giant Moai were carved, then walk the length of the island, examining the hundreds of monoliths scattered about. Immortalize your trip with one final stunt: Get inked with a $40 birdman petroglyph icon at the Mokomae Tattoos shack in the dusty little town of Hanga Roa.
November to February is prime diving season on the Pania Reef, just off the North Island town of Napier. Oversize conger eels and secretive blue butterfish can be spied poking out of the kelp forest, while plump crayfish and mussels often get scooped up and cooked over bonfires lit by Maori long-boarders at Tutaekuri River mouth. The guys at AdventureDive (64-684-35-148 or adventuredive.co.nz) provide the best views underwater. For a great spot on dry land, request the wraparound balcony at Mon Logis (rooms from $90; 64-683-52-125 or babs.co.nz/monlogis), which faces the Pacific Ocean.
See how the better half ski. At arguably the country’s ritziest ski resort—Beaver Creek—the World Cup downhill competition from November 29 to December 2 signals some unusual bargains for those who stay at its deluxe Inn at Beaver Creek (800-859-8242 or beavercreek.com). First, its free to attend the races and transportation is provided. What’s more, $370 gets you three nights at the inn and lift tickets—a deal in effect from November 24 to December 18. Watch, ski, and use the savings to warm up Bode style at Loaded Joe’s (970-748-1480 or loadedjoes.com) bar in neighboring Avon, recently connected to Beaver Creek by a speedy gondola.
Parc National des Volcans
The getting there is tough—a 6 a.m. wake-up call followed by at least two hours hiking through bamboo forests escorted by gun-wielding guards and sharp-eyed trackers. The payoff? Rare mountain gorillas. Fewer than 800 remain in the wild, and about half of them are in Rwanda. Follow one of seven gorilla families (the largest has up to 35 members) in a hike stretching into five hours—each way. Recover nicely at the upscale new Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (from $570 for two; 254-20-273-4000 or governorscamp.com) located just two miles from the park. Eight spacious cottages have terra-cotta roofs, African artwork and large verandas for post-trek volcano watching.
Rio Grande do Sul
Ride on horseback through the hills and beaches of Rio Grande do Sul with Campofora expeditions (from $250 a day; 55-54-32-7814-54 or campofora.com.br). Camp under the stars, or arrange a stay at a ranch, where trained cowboys do all the dirty work, like grilling the steaks churrasco style under the Southern Cross. City slickers should steel themselves for an authentic, roughing it adventure; these are real ranches—not day spas with horses—and gauchos don’t coddle the squeamish.
Play with gravity
Dig in your ice ax to ascend a frozen waterfall ten minutes from downtown Québec City. No need to invest in pricey technical hardware: Your instructor provides an ax, boots, and crampons—but do remember to bring ski gear and long underwear. Leave your vertigo at home or don’t sign up for a vacation scaling a slippery face of ice. It’s slow going, frequently chilly, and you must be in shape. Some rock-climbing experience is helpful, but you need not be a trained mountaineer for this white-knuckle course ($100 per person, 418-647-4422 or rocgyms.com). Look down condescendingly at the snowshoers (cowards!) 200 feet below. After you’re untethered from the safety lines, drive to Québec City’s Auberge Saint-Antoine (from $162; 418-692-2211 or saint-antoine .com) to download your photos and rest up for the next day’s ascent.
Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks
Tip a little extra and maybe use some of that New York chutzpa to convince the safari guide to take you off-road, atop an elephant. Or have a peaceful (albeit rifleless) stroll through the tiger preserve. When you get back in one piece—you will—take a long soak in the big tub in your suite at one of two recently opened Taj-CC Africa lodges (rates, with safari, start at $767 per person; no telephone; tajsafaris.com).