Mangroves are an imperilled biome whose protection and restoration through payments for ecosystem services (PES) can contribute to improved livelihoods, climate mitigation and adaptation. Interviews with resource users in three Solomon Islands villages suggest a strong reliance upon mangrove goods for subsistence and cash, particularly for firewood, food and building materials. Village-derived economic data indicates a minimum annual subsistence value from mangroves of US$ 345–1501 per household. Fish and nursery habitat and storm protection were widely recognized and highly valued mangrove ecosystem services. All villagers agreed that mangroves were under threat, with firewood overharvesting considered the primary cause. Multivariate analyses revealed village affiliation and religious denomination as the most important factors determining the use and importance of mangrove goods. These factors, together with gender, affected users’ awareness of ecosystem services. The importance placed on mangrove services did not differ significantly by village, religious denomination, gender, age, income, education or occupation. Mangrove ecosystem surveys are useful as tools for raising community awareness and input prior to design of PES systems. Land tenure and marine property rights, and how this complexity may both complicate and facilitate potential carbon credit programmes in the Pacific, are discussed.