This story first appeared in the June 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Even in such second-home meccas as the Hamptons and Malibu, beachfront property is a rare commodity -- and as the market heats up, prices are skyrocketing, regaining as much as two-thirds of their pre-recession peaks. "There's a confidence in luxury real estate right now. This is the buyer segment's chance to step up," says Betty Graham, president of Coldwell Banker Previews International. "If they have the money and the valued lifestyle, this is the time to do it before it goes higher."
Median Sale Price: In Chatham, Mass. -- where Harry Connick Jr. owns a second home -- the median was $448,000 in March, according to Zillow. That's 46 percent of the all-time-high median of $975,000, established in September 2009.
Ultimate House: An 11,000-square-foot, six-bedroom mansion in Chatham -- a quaint town of 6,100 bounded on three sides by water -- is listed at $25 million and offers a wine cave, elevator and home theater on two acres.
Recent Big Sale: Working through a limited liability company, Taylor Swift is believed to have sold a seven-bedroom house in nearby Hyannis Port in February for $5.67 million, flipping it for an $875,000 profit after buying it four months earlier for $4.8 million.
Hotspot: The year-old Pizza Barbone (390 Main St., Hyannis) serves pies from a 1,000-degree wood- fired oven.
Median Sale Price: $1.7 million in March, 68 percent of June 2008's high of $2.49 million.
Ultimate House: A rare find built in 1928, this four-bedroom shingled cottage, listed at $18.9 million, is one of only seven beachfront houses in the gated Malibu Colony enclave with its own pool, plus 60 feet of beach frontage and a guesthouse.
Recent Big Sale: Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann plunked down $10.8 million in April for a 1930s Malibu Colony bungalow previously owned by the late producer Laura Ziskin.
Hotspot: Mr Chow Malibu (3835 Cross Creek Road) recently began weekend lunch service.
Median Sale Price: $1.22 million in March, 71 percent of October 2008's high of $1.73 million.
Ultimate House: A five-bedroom contemporary residence listed at $41.5 million, one of only five to open directly onto the sand in Irvine Cove, calls to mind a chic resort in Bora Bora. Nearly every room has floor-to-ceiling views of the Pacific.
Recent Big Sale: The Real House- wives of Orange County's Heather Dubrow and her plastic surgeon husband, Terry, sold their Newport Coast mansion in December, without listing it publicly, for $16.45 million.
Hotspot: The Mozza empire expanded to Newport Beach with the 2011 opening of Pizzeria Mozza (800 W. Coast Hwy.).
Median Sale Price: $484,000 in March, 65 percent of January 2007's high of $743,000.
Ultimate House: Lahaina is one of Maui's most luxurious destinations with several first-class resorts, including the 22,000-acre Kapalua Resort, that offer residences. One property is a new six-bedroom beachfront house, listed at $20.8 million, featuring ipe wood floors, a hand-carved black granite bathtub, meditation garden and three lanais.
Recent Big Sale: After purchasing the nearby island of Lanai in 2012 for $300 million, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison bought inter-island commuter airline Island Air in February for an undisclosed price.
Hotspot: Chef Alan Wong, whose eponymous Honolulu restaurant is a favorite of the Obamas, opened Amasia (3850 Wailea Alanui Drive) last year at the Grand Wailea, where a highlight is the Surf and Turf sushi roll with Wagyu steak and uni.
Median Sale Price: $739,000 in Southampton in March, 53 percent of April 2009's high of $1.4 million.
Ultimate House: Sitting on a prime 2.5-acre oceanfront lot, an 8,500-square-foot, six-bedroom 1986-built beauty, listed at $28.5 million, has been revamped meticulously and boasts a media room, soaring wood-clad ceilings, three rock-wall fireplaces and a sunken tennis court.
Recent Big Sale: In March, hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen, now at the center of an insider-trading scandal, laid out $60 million for a 10,000-square-foot oceanfront property on East Hampton's Further Lane -- the same month he purchased a Picasso from Steve Wynn for $155 million.
Hotspot: Chef Tom Colicchio's seasonal Topping Rose House restaurant (One Bridgehampton -- Sag Harbor Turnpike), which opened in the fall, has been joined by the debut of its 22-room hotel in May.