Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM-2; ca. 54.2 Ma) represents the second largest of the major Eocene hyperthermals, yet comparatively little is known about the scale and rate of climatic change for key regions. Here we provide the first detailed records of subtropical sea-surface warming and salinization for ETM-2 at two subtropical locations, Ocean Drilling Program Sites 1209 (North Pacific) and 1265 (South Atlantic). Coupled planktic foraminiferal Mg/Ca and δ18O indicate 2–4 °C of rapid warming and local salinization of ∼1–2 ppt at both sites. The increase in sea-surface temperature is equivalent to anomalies reported from higher latitude sites, and is consistent with theory on the expected pattern of spatial temperature response to greenhouse gas forcing in an ice-free world (i.e., no ice-albedo feedback). Similarly, the observed salinization is consistent with the hypothesis of enhanced meridional vapor transport and increased subtropical aridity in a warmer world.