Phylogenetic relationships in the Olea europaea complex and the phylogeography of 24 populations of the Macaronesian olive (O. europaea ssp. cerasiformis) were assessed by using three molecular markers: nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS-1) sequences, randomly amplified polymorphic DNAs (RAPD), and intersimple sequence repeats (ISSR). Parsimony analysis of the ITS-1 sequences and Neighbour-joining (NJ) analyses of RAPD and ISSR banding variation revealed four major lineages in the O. europaea complex: (1) ssp. cuspidata; (2) ssp. cerasiformis from Madeira; (3) ssp. laperrinei; and (4) ssp. cerasiformis from the Canary Islands plus ssp. europaea. These results provide unequivocal support for two independent dispersal events of Olea to the Madeira and Canary Islands. Molecular and morphological evidence led to recognition of two separate olive taxa in Macaronesia, to date included in ssp. cerasiformis. NJ analyses of the combined RAPD and ISSR data suggest that the colonization of the Canaries by O. europaea may have followed an east to west stepping-stone model. An interisland dispersal sequence can be recognized, starting from the continent to Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, and finally La Palma. High dispersal activity of the lipid-rich Olea fruits by birds in the Mediterranean region is congruent with multiple dispersal of olives to Macaronesia and successive colonization of the archipelagos. The observation of strong genetic isolation between populations of different islands of the Canary Islands suggests, however, that subsequent interisland dispersal and establishment has been very rare or may not have occurred at all.