There is evidence that institutions related to climate change and natural resource management influence each other’s performance, and that local settings also shape policy outcomes. We examine how policy implementation processes and institutional interactions affect the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program in Cameroon. Research on REDD+ implementation has focused on resource tenure, benefit-sharing and participation, giving less attention to how implementation paradigms and other institutions affect REDD+. We combine a policy implementation framework with the theories of institutional interaction to examine how REDD+ implementation typologies, and interactions with forestry regulations influence the outcomes of three REDD+ pilot projects in South and West Cameroon. Drawing from focus group discussions with project beneficiaries and interviews with local stakeholders and land-users, we find that REDD+ projects epitomize political implementation in the South and experimental implementation in the West. We also indicate how project outcomes have been affected by rules regarding community forests, reforestation and timber processing. Our findings suggest that policy designers’ ability to satisfy community preferences is important for projects’ outcomes in the South, and that resource availability and social capital are pivotal in the West. Incentives to promote local timber processing, improve forest governance and expedite decentralization would improve REDD+ project implementation in Cameroon.