Proton nuclear magnetic resonance was used to study individual molecules of hydration water bound to the protein basic pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI) and to the nonapeptide oxytocin in aqueous solution. The experimental observations are nuclear Overhauser effects (NOE) between protons of individual amino acid residues of the protein and those of hydration water. These NOEs were recorded by two-dimensional (2D) and three dimensional (3D) NOE spectroscopy (NOESY) in the laboratory frame, and by the corresponding experiments in the rotating frame (ROESY). The studies show that there are two qualitatively different types of hydration sites. Four water molecules in the interior of the BPTI molecule are in identical locations in the crystal structure and in solution. Their NOEs with the protein protons are characterized by large negative cross-relaxation rates sigma NOE, which indicates that the residence times of the water molecules in these hydration sites are longer than ca. 10 ns. Additional experiments with extrinsic shift reagents established an upper limit of 20 ms at 4 degrees C for these residence times. Surface hydration of both the globular protein BPTI and the flexibly disordered polypeptide oxytocin is by water molecules with residence times in the subnanosecond range, as evidenced by small positive sigma NOE values observed for their NOEs with nearby polypeptide protons. Short residence times prevail for all surface hydration sites, independent of whether or not they are occupied by well ordered, X-ray observable water in the protein single crystals.