Climate change is a major threat to food security in Pacific Island countries, with declines in food production and increasing variability in food supplies already evident across the region. Such impacts have already led to observed consequences for human health, safety and economic prosperity. Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Pacific Island communities is one way to reduce vulnerability and is underpinned by the extent to which people can access, understand and use new knowledge to inform their decision-making processes. However, effective engagement of Pacific Island communities in climate adaption remains variable and is an ongoing and significant challenge. Here, we use a qualitative research approach to identify the impediments to engaging Pacific Island communities in the adaptations needed to safeguard food security. The main barriers include cultural differences between western science and cultural knowledge, a lack of trust among local communities and external scientists, inappropriate governance structures, and a lack of political and technical support. We identify the importance of adaptation science, local social networks, key actors (i.e., influential and trusted individuals), and relevant forms of knowledge exchange as being critical to overcoming these barriers. We also identify the importance of co-ordination with existing on-ground activities to effectively leverage, as opposed to duplicating, capacity.