Local climate change action is arguably nowhere more needed than in least-developed small island states, where hazard exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and limited development pathways intersect with ecosystem dependencies and a negligible responsibility for historical greenhouse gas emissions. In their peri-urban areas, many of these countries are experiencing rapid population growth – no more so than in the Melanesian region of the South Pacific. At a sub-national scale, these areas represent the juncture of traditional knowledge and culture – a key source of strength and adaptive capacity – and the post-colonial transition to globally connected, cash-based livelihoods. This chapter will examine the nature of this juncture in Port Vila, Vanuatu, exploring the duality of urban transitions and adaptation to climate change in such settings. This is evidenced through a combination of historical analysis, and reflections on findings from a two-year research project engaging with the city’s informal settlements. It is proposed that transformations building on the local experiences, knowledges and social structures of these peri-urban dwellers is an integral step in identifying feasible pathways to climate adaptation and developing urban resilience in small island cities.