Abstract The interaction of molecular beams of CsCl with (100) surfaces of NaCl is studied for crystal temperatures between 560 and 620 K and for molecular beam fluxes between 2 × 10 7 and 2 × 10 13 cm −2 s −1 by measurements of transient and steady state desorption fluxes, by static SIMS, and by electron microscopy. Also for the large Cs + ions a fast cation exchange Cs + ⇌ Na + between CsCl molecules adsorbed on the terrace and the outermost surface layer of the NaCl crystal is observed. The results for undersaturation are interpreted by incorporation of Cs + ions in the outermost surface layer of the NaCl crystal and by adsorption of CsCl molecules at the monatomic steps on the surface. The outermost surface layer proves to have a maximum capacity for Cs + of 2.4 × 10 11 cm −2. The residence time of Cs + ions in the outermost surface layer is determined as τ 0 = 1.6 × 10 −12 exp(1.49 (eV)/ kT), the time for desorption of CsCl molecules from the monatomic steps as τ 1 = 2.9 × 10 −14 exp(1.60 (eV)/ kT). By experiments with an additional NaCl flux onto the surface it is shown that τ 0 is the time for a back-exchange of Cs + ions from the outermost surface layer against Na + from NaCl admolecules. For supersaturation the growth of polymorphic CsCl islands is observed. In the first growth stages these islands show the NaCl-type structure, while for later growth stages the CsCl type structure is found. A comparative discussion of all studied alkali halide systems shows that the different results can be attributed to the different radii of guest and host cation and to lattice misfits, respectively.