Island paradise at your fingertips

Times Staff Writer Rosemary McClure has a thing for islands and has hopped to dozens all over the world. Here are a few of her recent reports on tropical spots to relax in the South Pacific and the Caribbean.

Dreams are made on Bora-Bora
A stunning slice of French Polynesia once treasured nearly as much for its slow pace as for its scenery, life on Bora-Bora has begun to speed up. In the last year, two ultra-luxurious hotels have sprouted, with another on the way, all designed to lure the world's most affluent travelers to this fabled South Pacific island.

Anguilla a haven of low-key luxury
Flat, dry and covered with thickets of scrub brush and brackish ponds, Anguilla is no Bali Hai. In fact, it's woefully lacking the rudimentary qualities needed for World's Favorite Island status: no cascading waterfalls, soaring volcanic mountains or luxuriant tropical foliage. There aren't even many palm trees. And if you're looking for a nightclub or casino -- or some boutique shopping -- forget it. These things apparently matter little, however, to Anguilla's A-list guests, who have found other qualities to commend it.

Dazzling Palau and its turquoise waters under the radar
Palau is a tiny Western Pacific nation that's considered an underwater wonder of the world. Its turquoise seas are legendary with divers, some of whom view it as a mecca. But visitors don't have to dive to appreciate Palau's treasures; even an inexperienced snorkeler can glimpse a magical array of coral, fish and other colorful marine life. Those with simpler tastes -- a beach chair and a sandy shoreline -- can find long, white beaches on emerald-green, uninhabited islands.

Bliss? On the Cook Islands, you're soaking in it
The 15 atolls and islands that make up the Cooks — named for 18th century explorer Capt. James Cook — are strung across 850,000 square miles of ocean midway between South America and Australia. Unlike their famous neighbor French Polynesia, about 600 miles east, the Cooks have no McDonald's restaurants and no large hotel developments. They differ from Tahiti in another way too: Everyone speaks English.