Cook Inlet in Alaska has been identified as a prime site in the U.S. for potential tidal energy development, because of its enormous tidal power potential that accounts for nearly one-third of the national total. As one important step to facilitate tidal energy development, a tidal hydrodynamic model based on the unstructured-grid, finite-volume community ocean model (FVCOM) was developed for Cook Inlet to characterize the tidal stream energy resource. The model has a grid resolution that varies from about 1000 m at the open boundary to 100–300 m inside the Inlet. Extensive model validation was achieved by comparing model predictions with field observations for tidal elevation and velocity at various locations in Cook Inlet. The error statistics confirmed the model performs reasonably well in capturing the tidal dynamics in the system, e.g., R2 > 0.98 for tidal elevation and generally > 0.9 for velocity. Model results suggest that tides in Cook Inlet evolve from progressive waves at the entrance to standing waves at the upper Inlet, and that semi-diurnal tidal constituents are amplified more rapidly than diurnal constituents. The model output was used to identify hotspots that have high energy potential and warrant additional velocity and turbulence measurements such as East Foreland, where averaged power density exceeds 5 kw/m2. Lastly, a tidal energy extraction simulation was conducted for a hypothetical turbine farm configuration at the Forelands cross section to evaluate tidal energy extraction and resulting changes in far-field hydrodynamics.