This effort develops and tests algorithms and a user-portable optical system designed to autonomously optimize the laser communication wavelength in open and coastal oceans. In situ optical meteorology and oceanography (METOC) data gathered and analyzed as part of the auto-selection process can be stored and forwarded. The system performs closedloop optimization of three visible-band lasers within one minute by probing the water column via passive retroreflector and polarization optics, selecting the ideal wavelength, and enabling high-speed communication. Backscattered and stray light is selectively blocked by employing polarizers and wave plates, thus increasing the signal-to-noise ratio. As an advancement in instrumentation, we present autonomy software and portable hardware, and demonstrate this new system in two environments: ocean bay seawater and outdoor test pool freshwater. The next generation design is also presented. Once fully miniaturized, the optical payload and software will be ready for deployment on manned and unmanned platforms such as buoys and vehicles. Gathering timely and accurate ocean sensing data in situ will dramatically increase the knowledge base and capabilities for environmental sensing, defense, and industrial applications. Furthermore, communicating on the optimal channel increases transfer rates, propagation range, and mission length, all while reducing power consumption in undersea platforms.