Early mornings and vacations don’t always go together, unless you have a tide-pool window to catch.

Our accommodations at Kalaloch Lodge in Olympic National Park served as the perfect early-morning springboard for our tide-pooling adventures.

Our cabin’s mildew smell was no surprise considering our wet surroundings. The ocean is bordered by temperate rain forests in this section of the Olympic Peninsula. However, our bungalow’s proximity to the beach made up for the odor and gave us a convenient spot from which to explore. Eight beautiful beaches are within eight miles of the lodge.

Tide pools offer an up-close and personal look at a thriving life beneath the sea. You can’t help but feel privileged and awed when the tide recedes to reveal this otherworldly spectacle.

To make the most of our experience, we checked the low tide schedule at the front desk of our lodge and planned an early-hour departure in the dark. My husband was skeptical, but all was forgiven as soon as we walked into this dreamy underworld of sea creatures.

As we descended the steps onto the fog-filled beach, we were greeted by lots of families making the most of their tide-pooling adventure.

Tide pools are pockets of seawater found along the shoreline of rocky coasts. When it’s low tide, they offer a glimpse into life beneath the ocean’s surface.

During our visit, we found a rainbow of anemones, sea stars, urchins, sea cucumbers, barnacles, mussels and seaweed.

Don’t bother calling these creatures starfish. Scientists prefer sea stars because they are not fish. Instead, they are classified as invertebrates. They have no fishlike features such as gills, scales or fins.

Instead of swimming, sea stars navigate through their tiny tube feet. These feet secrete a glue-like substance to help them adhere to rocks.

Each rock along this beach holds a beautiful patchwork of crustaceans.

The morning fog added to the mysterious ambiance as it obscured and unveiled the rocky formations to which the sea creatures clung.

Dealing with the changing tides makes for a rough life. During low tide, this marine life spends hours battling the elements including the sun, low oxygen, rising water temperatures and predatory birds. At high tide, crashing waves and hungry fish become their new obstacles. There are some perks as the tides also bring the food source directly to these stealth sea creatures. Hello, ocean room service.

It’s hard to believe that within hours this mass of life will be underwater again. It’s a daily grind, this cycle of ocean life.

It’s pretty amazing to witness nature’s inventiveness.

For example, barnacles produce a fast-curing cement that keep them in place along the rocks. This natural substance is among the most powerful glues known to exist, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website.

Sea anemones cluster together to reduce evaporation, crowd out competition, and amass more tentacles to catch, sting and hold prey, according to a placard in the beach area.

So have I convinced you to take the plunge into the marine underworld the next chance you get? If so, here are some tips from the NOAA to make the most of your tide-pool experience:

  • The best time to visit tide pools is at low tide.
  • Bring a bag with you to pick up any plastic, paper, glass or metal trash on the beach. (We didn’t do that, but what a great idea, especially with kids in tow to teach them how to care for their environment.)
  • Find footholds on bare rocks, which are less slippery than those colonized with algae and other sensitive sea life.
  • If you peek under a rock, put it back where and as you found it. Leave the animals and plants alone.
  • Do not collect intertidal species. It is illegal to do so in many areas.

If you are ever in Olympic National Park or any area advertising their tide pools, plan your day around a visit. It’s a surefire way to rekindle that feeling of childhood wonder. For families, it’s the memory glue that will be reminisced for years to come.