The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) is the first spaceborne imaging spectrometer designed to sample the coastal ocean. HICO samples selected coastal regions at 92 m ground sample distance with full spectral coverage (88 channels covering 400 to 900 nm) and a high signal-to-noise ratio to resolve the complexity of the coastal ocean. HICO has been operating on the International Space Station since October 2009 and collected over 8000 scenes for more than 50 users. We have been using HICO data to study major rivers and estuaries in the US and Asia. Our results show the advantages of HICO’s additional spectral channels and higher spatial resolution for studying these complex coastal waters. We use these data to suggest requirements for spatial and spectral sampling for future ocean color sensors.