Des Moines, 0.5 hours from Seattle | Tide Pools, Dive Park, Volleyball Fields

The giant Pacific octopus is a slippery sucker, and not just because it’s a cephalopod. The animal is hard to spot on an underwater dive because it changes color like a chameleon, shifting from orange to a shade similar to the underwater Puget Sound kelp. Still, it’s possible to spot the octopus on a dive at Saltwater State Park, where sea life proliferates thanks to a 1970s cleanup and, later, an artificial reef installation.

The flat beach and placid water south of Seattle appear calm from the picnic tables and tide pools, the rocky shore coated with a thick layer of kelp at low tide. Divers, though, go under water for a whole different kettle of fish. The site boasts wolf eels, vermillion rockfish, and even a shipwreck, and rewards those making the long swim to the dive park. Des Moines dive shop TL Sea can take beginners to dive-ready in about two weeks of classes. Late fall, aka the season when most outdoor Northwest sports are miserable, is the ideal time for clear water and teeming sea life.

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