While substantial amounts of public and private investment funds have been ploughed into establishing the built infrastructure that is required to stimulate and sustain economic development in coastal zones, much less attention has been paid to maintaining the natural capital base that underpins it. Payments for marine and coastal ecosystem services (PMCES) provide a powerful, and increasingly popular, tool for realizing such investment. Yet, if PMCES are to reach their full potential, decision makers must be willing to rethink the way in which coastal developments are planned and implemented: to explicitly recognize the values associated with ecosystem services and to factor them into their calculations. Generating evidence about the economic value of ecosystem services is a useful first step in identifying opportunities for PMCES, and soliciting the buy-in which is required to take them forward.