Climate change-induced events are causing salinization of many rice-growing areas, requiring the identification of new sources of genetic variation for salt tolerance in plant genetic resources since commonly grown cultivars are sensitive to salt. To identify the level of salt tolerance across a wide range of genotypes, we used a multivariate screening method using multiple growth and physiological traits simultaneously. For this purpose, four indica, two japonica and two wild rice genotypes were grown hydroponically under 40 and 80 mM NaCl stresses; fourteen different growth, qualitative and physiological traits, e.g. plant height, biomass, root and shoot elongation rates, and tissue ion accumulation, were recorded. In general, indica varieties performed better than both japonica and wild species. Our approach identified the existence of qualitatively different mechanisms of salt tolerance across the genotypes. For example, Pokkali, a salt-tolerant indica variety, displayed both ‘Na exclusion’ and ‘ion balance’ mechanisms, whereas PSBRc50 and IR58 showed only ‘Na exclusion’, and the Japonica genotypes Banikat and Nipponbare showed only ‘ion balance’. The results demonstrated that the tolerance is dependent on the level of stress and that this varies between genotypes; Nipponbare is moderately tolerant to 40 mM NaCl but not to 80 mM. We also suggest that the use of multivariate analyses can simplify the complex salinity tolerance picture and can effectively reveal the salinity tolerant genotype from a wide range of germplasm. The results reported here identify different physiological mechanism of tolerance across the genotypes and provide a sound basis for future studies examining their underlying molecular mechanisms.