Understanding patterns of community structure and the causes for their variation can be furthered by comparative biogeographic analyses of island biotas. We used woody plant data at the local scale to investigate variations in species rarity, alpha, beta, and gamma diversity within and between three islands from the oceanic archipelagoes of Azores, Canaries and Mascarene. We used standardized protocols to sample ten 50 m × 50 m forest plots in each of the three islands with contrasting climate and regional species pools: Terceira (Azores), Tenerife (Canaries), and Reunion (Mascarene Islands). Occupancy frequency distributions and species abundance distributions were used to investigate rarity. The partitioning of beta diversity in a distance-decay framework was used to test for spatial patterns of community composition. Rarity was much more pronounced in the highly diverse islands of Tenerife and Reunion than in the regionally poorer island of Terceira. The number of species rose faster with increasing sample area in both Tenerife and Reunion. The slope of the species rank abundance curve was steeper in Terceira whereas the richer island assemblages approached a lognormal model. Compositional changes according to spatial distance were mostly due to replacement of species in Terceira and Reunion. Our results point to important differences in the community structure of Terceira, which is the less diverse and temperate region in comparison to Tenerife and Reunion which are highly diverse.