Vietnam is currently undergoing a rapid economic and social transition involving the dismantling of the co-operative system and the official embracing of a market economy. The paper uses an institutional approach to examine adaptation to such changes in two coastal communes in mangrove forest areas. Having provided the historical and policy context of reforms which have taken place in Vietnam in the area of resource management, the paper goes on to discuss changes currently taking place in access to resources. The complexity of property rights regimes are then examined in the light of such changes, with particular focus on the effects of privatisation and the increased effects of integration with external markets. Using livelihood diversification as a key concept for understanding local adaptation to such changes, the paper concludes with discussion of the socially differentiated impacts of the process and the implications for future livelihoods.