IN THE ancient language of Hawaii, Kaua'i means garden island, and after even the briefest visit to the archipelago's fourth largest island, most would have to agree that it is aptly named. From the emerald green sugarcane fields, to the aquamarine ocean and fiery red soil, the island is a paradise that would stimulate the most jaded eyes. Kaua'i has long been considered the ultimate honeymoon destination. But more recently, the island's rugged coastline, waves, and numerous waterfalls have begun to draw crowds of thrill-seekers, spawning a new wave of activities including horse-riding and kayaking. But there is another side to the garden isle; a side which few vacationers encounter and locals regard with trepidation. It is when Mother Nature, for whom Hawaiians have always held the greatest respect, wreaks havoc in the form of a hurricane. The sparkling blue sky becomes an ominous black and the normally welcoming ocean churns with rage. Kaua'i's last hurricane, Iniki, swept through on September 11, 1992, turning the paradise into an emergency relief station reminiscent of a Third World country. The damage was worse than that doled out by a previous devastating storm, Hurricane Ewa, in 1986. There were still signs of Ewa's damage when Iniki struck. The damage bill from Iniki was more than US$1 billion (HK$7.7 billion) and a total of 14,000 homes were ruined on an island with a population of 52,000. Power was cut for weeks, water was rationed, and telephone connections were down, and the army was forced to airlift in emergency supplies including tents and water. Tourism, the major source of income for the island, virtually came to a standstill. Most of the 70 hotels were seriously damaged. Slowly, the debris was cleared, homes rebuilt, and lives put back together. Today, to the untrained or casual eye, the beauty of Kaua'i might appear unchanged and timeless, despite the passage of Iniki. The foliage is lush and colourful. The sun still shines just as brightly. Waimea Canyon, Kaua'i's 'Grand Canyon' is as breathtaking as ever. Signs of recovery are everywhere. Most noticeable of these is the reopening of the Princeville Resort. One of the more upmarket hotels on the island, it was heavily hit by Iniki but is now working hard to lure the visitors back to the island. Located on the idyllic North Shore, the hotel has a stunning view of Hanalei beach and bay - the area where South Pacific was filmed. The two golf courses are top-notch, with the 18-hole Prince Course rated the best in Hawaii by Golf Digest and among the top 50 in the United States. The 27-hole Makai course has been rated number seven in the state of Hawaii. Both courses are easy to book due to the lack of tourists. Cost of play ranges from US$55 to US$70 on the Makai and US$55 to US$85 on the Prince. Green fees include cart, driving range and admission to the Prince Health Club and Spa, although the spa is only open to Prince players. One of the top 50 golf teachers in America, Dean Reinmuth, is employed by the resort. In addition to overseeing Princeville's teaching programmes, Reinmuth runs several golf schools at Princeville every year. 'Princeville is first and foremost a golf resort. It is ideally suited to hosting hands-on golf schools for practised beginners and experienced handicappers,' Reinmuth said. 'And those beautiful ocean and mountain vistas! Every golfer will be challenged tokeep their minds on their game when they play Princeville. I have been coming here for 15 years and I still stop to wonder and enjoy the view from every tee. This is golf at its very best.' But there is more to the resort than just golf. The hotel is exclusive, with only 252 rooms, and offers six tennis courts, a health club and spa, and a variety of restaurants and lounges. La Cascata, an Italian restaurant, is open for dinner, while Cafe Hanalei provides all-day dining. Sunday brunch is a long-standing tradition on Kaua'i and Cafe Hanalei is well-known for its huge spread of home-baked goods, fresh tropical fruits, sushi, sashimi, and other breakfast and lunch items. Conveniently located near the hotel is the Princeville Corporation's own airport featuring daily Island Air flights from Oahu. Princeville is a 45-minute drive away from Lihue, where the main town and airport are located. Best of all, the hotel is a stone's throw from the beginning of the scenic Kalalau Trail, a 17-kilometre hike along the rugged Na Pali coastline. Princeville in co-operation with Karen Chandler, a nature guide and expedition leader, offers tailor-made one and three day trips into the Kalalau Valley for hotel guests. A portion of the proceeds are donated to the replanting of native endemic plants and trees lost during the hurricane. For the less adventurous, kayaking along Hanalei River is a peaceful way to experience the natural beauty of the towering mountains and numerous waterfalls. Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is rife with rare native birds. Kayaking trips can be arranged by the hotel. Although Japanese-owned, an effort has been made to give the hotel an Hawaiian flavour. In addition to the tasteful Hawaiian decor, every week there is a schedule of special events focusing on Hawaii. Whether it is lei making, tropical flower arranging, lauhala weaving, Hawaiian quilting, or educational talks and botanical tours, these events serve as reminders to guests of Hawaii's great culture. Rates range from US$225 a night for a luxury room, US$300 for a partial ocean view, US$350 for oceanfront view and US$400 for junior suites. Executive suites, presidential suites and the royal suite are available for US$825, US$1,980 and US$2,350 respectively. All prices increase by approximately US$50 during peak season. The Grand Hyatt in Poi'pu was the first major hotel to reopen after Iniki. It sustained relatively little damage compared to Princeville and the other hotels. The hotel is on the banks of the sunny south shore, and in fact gained a larger beach as a resultof the storm. It is now able to claim an occupancy rate of 67 per cent. With its children's centre, Camp Hyatt, the hotel is ideal for a family holiday. Like Princeville, the Hyatt has made a concerted effort to provide alternative activities for guests outside of the usual pastimes of tennis, golf and sitting by the pool or walking on the beach. The hotel offers a unique opportunity for horseback riding along the rim of Waimea Canyon. Not for the faint-hearted, the ride lasts for either two or four hours and the guide is a life-long resident of the island who is tremendously knowledgeable on its history and on Hawaii. Scuba diving marine awareness trips are also on offer, but are limited to certified divers. Mountain bike excursions to Maha'ulepu Beach are also available. A favourite spot for windsurfers, this beach is hidden away among fields of sugar cane and is a delight to visit. There are still the occasional reminders of Iniki. The whitened, stripped trees that line the roads are haunting mementoes, and abandoned devastated houses are still to be found. Many of the hotels will not open for another year, if at all because of insurance and financial difficulties. However, local people hope that by 1995, the island will be just about back to normal. For now, though, any tourists who make their way to Kaua'i are lucky. The beaches are empty, the few hotels are relatively easy to book,and the people are more pleased than ever to see you. The spirit of aloha is alive and well on Kaua'i. HOW TO GET THERE Northwestern Airlines flies times a week to Oahu. More to come... Information supplied by Wallem Travel, phone 821-3861.