The climate system and its spatio-temporal changes are strongly affected by modes of long-term internal variability, like the Pacific decadal variability (PDV) and the Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV). As they alternate between warm and cold phases, the interplay between PDV and AMV varies over decadal to multidecadal timescales. Here, we use a causal discovery method to derive fingerprints in the Atlantic–Pacific interactions and to investigate their phase-dependent changes. Dependent on the phases of PDV and AMV, different regimes with characteristic causal fingerprints are identified in reanalyses in a first step. In a second step, a regime-oriented causal model evaluation is performed to evaluate the ability of models participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) in representing the observed changing interactions between PDV, AMV and their extra-tropical teleconnections. The causal graphs obtained from reanalyses detect a direct opposite-sign response from AMV to PDV when analyzing the complete 1900–2014 period and during several defined regimes within that period, for example, when AMV is going through its negative (cold) phase. Reanalyses also demonstrate a same-sign response from PDV to AMV during the cold phase of PDV. Historical CMIP6 simulations exhibit varying skill in simulating the observed causal patterns. Generally, large-ensemble (LE) simulations showed better network similarity when PDV and AMV were out of phase compared to other regimes. Also, the two largest ensembles (in terms of number of members) were found to contain realizations with similar causal fingerprints to observations. For most regimes, these same models showed higher network similarity when compared to each other. This work shows how causal discovery on LEs complements the available diagnostics and statistical metrics of climate variability to provide a powerful tool for climate model evaluation.