Life abounds in the nooks and crannies beyond the promontory of West Seattle's Alki Beach. Hermit crabs skulk, chitons cling to rocks, and pastel-colored sea anemones jiggle in the currents like Jell-O.
Late spring brings some of the lowest tides of the year to Washington's coastal towns, making it a great time to check out local tidepools and the critters that live in them. Alki is perhaps the best bet on Puget Sound; on the Pacific Coast, Olympic National Park's Shi Shi (pronounced shy-shy) Beach is well worth the drive and the 2 1/2-mile hike it takes to get there. Among Shi Shi's many draws: sea stars that often measure more than 1 foot from tip to tip.
Remember, look but don't touch. And if you can't find that elusive sea cucumber or anemone the first time, just wait ― the next low tide is never more than 12 hours away.
INFO: Access Alki Beach (free) via a sidewalk through Constellation Park along Beach Dr. S.W.; access Shi Shi Beach via the Makah-owned Shi Shi trail off Bay View Ave. (State 112) in Neah Bay. Permit required for Shi Shi ($7), available at Washburn's General Store on Bay View (360/645-2211). No dogs allowed at either beach. Tide charts are available at most local sporting goods stores.