Coastal sea surface temperature (SST) is an important environmental characteristic in determining the suitability of habitat for nearshore marine and estuarine organisms. This publication describes and provides access to an easy-to-use coastal SST dataset for ecologists, biogeographers, oceanographers, and other scientists conducting research on nearshore marine habitats or processes. The data cover the Temperate Northern Pacific Ocean as defined by the 'Marine Ecosystems of the World' (MEOW) biogeographic schema developed by The Nature Conservancy. The spatial resolution of the SST data is 4-km grid cells within 20 km of the shore. The data span a 29-year period - from September 1981 to December 2009. These SST data were derived from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument measurements compiled into monthly means as part of the Pathfinder versions 5.0 and 5.1 (PFSST V50 and V51) Project. The processing methods used to transform the data from their native Hierarchical Data Format Scientific Data Set (HDF SDS) to georeferenced, spatial datasets capable of being read into geographic information systems (GIS) software are explained. In addition, links are provided to examples of scripts involved in the data processing steps. The scripts were written in the Python programming language, which is supported by ESRI's ArcGIS version 9 or later. The processed data files are also provided in text (.csv) and Access 2003 Database (.mdb) formats. All data except the raster files include attributes identifying realm, province, and ecoregion as defined by the MEOW classification schema.