The ‘impassable’ Eastern Pacific Barrier (EPB), ca 5000 km of deep water separating the eastern from the central Pacific, is the World's widest marine biogeographic barrier. Sequencing of mitochondrial DNA in 20 reef fish morphospecies encountered on both sides of the barrier revealed cryptic speciation in two. Among the other 18 species only two showed significant differentiation (as revealed by haplotype networks and FST statistics) between the eastern and the central Pacific. Coalescence analyses indicated that genetic similarity in the 18 truly transpacific species resulted from different combinations of ages of most recent invasion and of levels of recurrent gene flow, with estimated times of initial separation ranging from approximately 30 000 to 1 Myr (ago). There is no suggestion of simultaneous interruptions of gene flow among the species. Migration across the EPB was previously thought to be exclusively eastward, but our evidence showed two invasions from east to west and eight cases in which subsequent gene flow possibly proceeded in the same direction. Thus, the EPB is sporadically permeable to propagules originating on either side.