Nawiliwili Harbor is on the western shores of Kauai island, the northernmost of the Hawaiian island chain. Some 97 nautical miles (146 kilometers or 91 miles by air) from Honolulu Harbor, Nawiliwili Harbor is over 18 nautical miles (25 kilometers or 15 miles by air) east-northeast of Port Allen Harbor, also located on Kauai island. Nawiliwili Harbor is about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) southeast of Lihue, the island's second largest city with a population of less than six thousand people.
Nawiliwili Harbor is the main port on Kauai. Before Europeans came to Hawaii, the Nawiliwili Bay area was important to the island's inhabitants for its fertility. Their subsistence-based economy depended on fish and the cultivation of Taro.
Kauai and Niihau (a small island to the southwest of Kauai) were the last islands to join the Kingdom of Hawaii ruled by King Kamehameha. Their ruler, Kaumualii defended the islands against Kamehameha for many years. The King failed two times at conquering the islands.
In 1810, wishing to spare his people from further violence, Kaumualii became a vassal of King Kamehameha in 1810, bequeathing the island to him when he died in 1824.
For a short time, Kaumualii tried to get the Russian military involved in his defense of the islands by engaging in secret negotiations with the Russian-American Company. However, when the military learned that Tsar Alexander I did not support their involvement in the Hawaiian conflict, the negotiations ended.
Later in the 19th Century, missionaries came to "civilize" the people of Nawiliwili Harbor and Kauai island. The first two piers in Nawiliwili Harbor were completed by 1898. They provided a private landing at the north of the harbor and a government landing on the west.