Two woody Hibiscus species co-occur in the Bonin Islands of the northwestern Pacific Ocean: Hibiscus glaber Matsum. is endemic to the islands, and its putative ancestral species, Hibiscus tiliaceus L., is widely distributed in coastal areas of the tropics and subtropics. To infer isolating mechanisms that led to speciation of H. glaber and the processes that resulted in co-occurrence of the two closely related species on the Bonin Islands, we conducted molecular phylogenetic analyses on chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) sequences. Materials collected from a wide area of the Pacific and Indian Oceans were used, and two closely related species, Hibiscus hamabo Siebold Zucc. and Hibiscus macrophyllus Roxb., were also included in the analyses. The constructed tree suggested that H. glaber has been derived from H. tiliaceus, and that most of the modern Bonin populations of H. tiliaceus did not share most recent ancestry with H. glaber. Geographic isolation appears to be the most important mechanism in the speciation of H. glaber. The co-occurrence of the two species can be attributed to multiple migrations of different lineages into the islands. While a wide and overlapping geographical distribution of haplotypes was found in H. tiliaceus, localized geographical distribution of haplotypes was detected in H. glaber. It is hypothesized that a shift to inland habitats may have affected the mode of seed dispersal from ocean currents to gravity and hence resulted in geographical structuring of H. glaber haplotypes.