Marine protected areas (MPAs) have largely proven to be effective tools for conserving marine ecosystem, while socio-economic benefits generated by MPAs to fisheries are still under debate. Many MPAs embed a no-take zone, aiming to preserve natural populations and ecosystems, within a buffer zone where potentially sustainable activities are allowed. Small-scale fisheries (SSF) within buffer zones can be highly beneficial by promoting local socio-economies. However, guidelines to successfully manage SSFs within MPAs, ensuring both conservation and fisheries goals, and reaching a win-win scenario, are largely unavailable. From the peer-reviewed literature, grey-literature and interviews, we assembled a unique database of ecological, social and economic attributes of SSF in 25 Mediterranean MPAs. Using random forest with Boruta algorithm we identified a set of attributes determining successful SSFs management within MPAs. We show that fish stocks are healthier, fishermen incomes are higher and the social acceptance of management practices is fostered if five attributes are present (i.e. high MPA enforcement, presence of a management plan, fishermen engagement in MPA management, fishermen representative in the MPA board, and promotion of sustainable fishing). These findings are pivotal to Mediterranean coastal communities so they can achieve conservation goals while allowing for profitable exploitation of fisheries resources.