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Reefs are known to provide coastal protection and important ecosystem services for many coastlines around the world. Physicalprocesses such as wave damping, sediment transport and nearshore hydrodynamics are closely related to the coastal protectionservices provided by reefs. The steep-fronted bathymetries of reefs cause abrupt wave transformations and wave dampingalongshore, while reef roughness has an important contribution to coastal protection. Five Latin-American case studies arepresented to illustrate the coastal protection offered by reefs and their contribution to wave damping. The methodologies applied(e.g. numerical modelling, field measurements) and reef conditions (e.g. reef degradation scenarios and contribution of reefroughness) are listed. Considerable efforts have been made towards diagnosing, understanding and modelling the hydrodynamictransformations induced by reefs. Based on physical and field surveys, roughness and friction parameters were derived in order toimplement calibrated and validated numerical models. Discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the different modelsapplied in the study cases is provided as well as on the needs of highlighting physical processes and the analysis of reefhydrodynamics for supporting appropriate ecosystem-based management.