The role of habitat choice in reproductive isolation and ecological speciation has often been overlooked, despite acknowledgement of its ability to facilitate local adaptation. It can form part of the speciation process through various evolutionary mechanisms, yet where habitat choice has been included in models of ecological speciation little thought has been given to these underlying mechanisms. Here, we propose and describe three independent criteria underlying ten different evolutionary scenarios in which habitat choice may promote or maintain local adaptation. The scenarios are the result of all possible combinations of the independent criteria, providing a conceptual framework in which to discuss examples which illustrate each scenario. These examples show that the different roles of habitat choice in ecological speciation have rarely been effectively distinguished. Making such distinctions is an important challenge for the future, allowing better experimental design, stronger inferences and more meaningful comparisons among systems. We show some of the practical difficulties involved by reviewing the current evidence for the role of habitat choice in local adaptation and reproductive isolation in the intertidal gastropod Littorina saxatilis, a model system for the study of ecological speciation, assessing whether any of the proposed scenarios can be reliably distinguished, given current research.