Coral reefs are effective natural coastal flood barriers that protect adjacent communities. Coral degradation compromises the coastal protection value of reefs while also reducing their other ecosystem services, making them a target for restoration. Here we provide a physics-based evaluation of how coral restoration can reduce coastal flooding for various types of reefs. Wave-driven flooding reduction is greatest for broader, shallower restorations on the upper fore reef and between the middle of the reef flat and the shoreline than for deeper locations on the fore reef or at the reef crest. These results indicate that to increase the coastal hazard risk reduction potential of reef restoration, more physically robust species of coral need to be outplanted to shallower, more energetic locations than more fragile, faster-growing species primarily being grown in coral nurseries. The optimization and quantification of coral reef restoration efforts to reduce coastal flooding may open hazard risk reduction funding for conservation purposes.