The New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre said the men were lucky their family raised the alarm quickly when they did not return home as planned over the weekend.
Search and Rescue Officer Chris Wilson says the boat the men were in did not have a motor but did have a sail which took them in an unexpected direction.
"They were found on an isolated island well to the southwest of Tarawa by a fishing vessel and it was actually outside the area, the search area, that we had planned but the issue was that we can plan for vessels and objects drifting. This was an outrigger canoe with a sail so it appears they have sailed out of the area."
The men are now on board the rescue fishing vessel and are being taken home to Kiribati.
The Airforce Orion that left Whenuapai at 4am Tuesday, stayed overnight on Majuro in the Marshall Islands and will return to New Zealand today.