National laws and institutions interact with local governance systems to encourage CBNRM in some cases while creating conflict in others. A case study of Kubulau District (Bua Province, Fiji) illustrates the challenges and successes of implementing traditional community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) within a pluralist legal and institutional context. In 2005, the communities of Kubulau established a network of protected areas, including 17 traditional closures (tabu), three no-take district marine reserves, a legally–declared forest reserve and a proposed forest reserve, managed under an integrated ‘ridge-to-reef’ plan. Marine and terrestrial areas in Kubulau illustrate synergies and discord between national laws and community management rules, and provide examples of management success and conflict. Key components influencing diverse management outcomes in Kubulau include (1) the legal status of customary resource tenure, (2) incorporation of local knowledge, traditions and priorities, (3) clearly articulated relationships between local decision-making processes and government regulation, and (4) perceived equity in distribution of management benefits. Legal and institutional reforms are proposed to improve management of natural resources in Fiji.