Small Island Developing States (SIDS) classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are particularly vulnerable to the projected impacts of climate change. Given their particular vulnerabilities, climate adaptation investments are being made through both national and international efforts to build the capacity of various sectors and communities to reduce climate risks and associated disasters. Despite these efforts, reducing climate risks is not free of various challenges and barriers. This paper aims to synthesise a set of critical socio-economic barriers present at various spatial scales that are specific to Least Developed Country SIDS. It also aims to identify the processes that give rise to these barriers. Drawing on theories from natural hazards, a systematic literature review method was adopted to identify and organise the set of barriers by focussing on both academic papers and grey literature. The data revealed a notable lack of studies on adaptation within African and Caribbean LDC-SIDS. In general, there was a paucity of academic as well as grey literature being produced by authors from LDC-SIDS to challenge existing discourses related to adaptation barriers. The most common barriers identified included those related to governance, technical, cognitive and cultural. Three key findings can be drawn from this study in relation to formal adaptation initiatives. Firstly, the lack of focus on the adaptive capacity needs of Local Government or Island Councils and communities was a key barrier to ensure success of adaptation interventions. Secondly, international adaptation funding modalities did little to address root causes of vulnerability or support system transformations. These funds were geared at supporting sectoral level adaptation initiatives for vulnerable natural resource sectors such as water, biodiversity and coastal zones. Thirdly, there is a need to recognise the significance of cultural knowledge and practices in shaping adaptive choices of communities in SIDS.