Communities in Pacific small island states face a range of threats to their management of natural resources, exacerbated by change-related risks, all against the backdrop of social and economic transition. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) describes a class of interventions that manage climatic change-related risks, which is argued to be relevant for such communities. Understanding local constraints and enabling conditions for EbA implementation is important in informing project implementation. We used Q-methodology to reveal principle discourses within a community in Vanuatu and among stakeholders with knowledge of the challenges confronting that community. We analysed stakeholders to determine whether particularly-held discourses correlate with demographic attributes. Our research revealed three principle discourses we called Strong Kastom, Kastom + Health and Tentative Modernity. Perspectives from each discourse need to be taken into account when identifying and evaluating adaptation options. Our results suggest adaptation interventions are more likely to resonate with the community if they support customary natural resource management, reflect traditional knowledge, provide opportunities for generating income, and promote gender equity in decision-making. Our results also suggest external practitioners do not necessarily consider income generation as being important to community livelihoods. Ignoring a community’s perspectives, values, and priorities risks undermining the viability of EbA projects.