Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. EbA provides an approach to sustainable development that contributes simultaneously to socio-economic development, climate adaptation and biodiversity conservation. Owing to the multiple benefits of EbA, it can be of use to coastal cities and the multi-faceted systems that exist within these cities. This policy briefing highlights various barriers and challenges to the implementation and governance of EbA in South African coastal cities, with a particular focus on Cape Town and Durban.