Ions transiting biomembranes might pass readily from water through ion-specific membrane proteins if these protein channels provide environments similar to the aqueous solution hydration environment. Indeed, bulk aqueous solution is an important reference condition for the ion permeation process. Assessment of this hydration mimicry concept depends on understanding the hydration structure and free energies of metal ions in water in order to provide a comparison for the membrane channel environment. To refine these considerations, we review local hydration structures of ions in bulk water and the molecular quasi-chemical theory that provides hydration free energies. In doing so, we note some current views of ion binding to membrane channels and suggest new physical chemical calculations and experiments that might further clarify the hydration mimicry concept.