Sea level rise over the last 55 years is estimated to have been 1.7 ± 0.2 mm yr−1, based upon 177 tide gauges divided into 13 regions with near global coverage and using a Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA) model to correct for land movements. We present evidence from altimeter data that the rate of sea level rise around the global coastline was significantly in excess of the global average over the period 1993–2002. We also show that the globally-averaged rate of coastal sea level rise for the decade centered on 1955 was significantly larger than any other decade during the past 55 years. In some models of sea level rise, enhanced coastal rise is a pre-cursor of global average rise. It remains to be seen whether the models are correct and whether global-average rates in the future reflect the high rates of coastal rise observed during the 1990s.