Best practices and international standards for determining n-year return period extreme wave (sea states) conditions allow wave energy converter designers and project developers the option to apply simple univariate or more complex bivariate extreme value analysis methods. The present study compares extreme sea state estimates derived from univariate and bivariate methods and investigates the performance of spectral wave models for predicting extreme sea states at buoy locations within several regional wave climates along the US East and West Coasts. Two common third-generation spectral wave models are evaluated, a WAVEWATCH III® model with a grid resolution of 4 arc-minutes (6–7 km), and a Simulating WAves Nearshore model, with a coastal resolution of 200–300 m. Both models are used to generate multi-year hindcasts, from which extreme sea state statistics used for wave conditions characterization can be derived and compared to those based on in-situ observations at National Data Buoy Center stations. Comparison of results using different univariate and bivariate methods from the same data source indicates reasonable agreement on average. Discrepancies are predominantly random. Large discrepancies are common and increase with return period. There is a systematic underbias for extreme significant wave heights derived from model hindcasts compared to those derived from buoy measurements. This underbias is dependent on model spatial resolution. However, simple linear corrections can effectively compensate for this bias. A similar approach is not possible for correcting model-derived environmental contours, but other methods, e.g., machine learning, should be explored.