The Antigua-based Coco Shop first opened its doors in 1949 as a place for local artists and craftsmen to sell their wares. It quickly blossomed into a staple on the island, drawing tourists and locals alike; but after nearly 70 years in business, the beloved shop closed its doors in 2017.
That same year, on another island—Manhattan, New York—Taylor Simmons caught wind that the shop had closed. Simmons was more than familiar with the island and with Coco Shop. Her grandparents had been traveling to Antigua since the 1950s, and her parents followed suit, taking her and her brother to the island often during their childhood. There, she formed an eternal bond with the island’s sunrises and sunsets, its calm waters and soft sand beaches—and its warmhearted people.
“What distinguishes Antigua is its focus on family,” she says. ”All activities, restaurants, and bars here are built for generations to enjoy together.”
With those past and future generations in mind, Simmons decided to revive Coco Shop, relaunching the brand online in 2019 as an effort to preserve its history, support Antiguan artists, and give the world another chance to take home a vital part of life on the island through their classically effortless all-cotton resort wear.
“Antigua is full of artists, farmers, gardeners, fishermen, sailors, and restaurateurs, all inspired by and making use of their surroundings daily,” Simmons says. And along with Coco Shop, there are many places on Antigua she believes give a perfect glimpse into the nation she holds so dear. See below for her guide to the welcoming Caribbean island.
Taylor Simmons’s Perfect Day in Antigua
My ideal morning activity is heading to the beach. Half Moon Bay on the island’s east coast is particularly beautiful in the morning—one side is calm like a wading pool and the other has body-surfing waves. It’s a long, beautiful beach to walk, but if anyone in your group prefers shade, trees hang slightly over the beach in places to create shaded groves.
If you plan to stay at the beach all day, Half Moon Bay’s Beach Bum Bar & Grill, also known as Tippy’s, is best. Walk just 20 feet from the beach center, shoeless, and order the grilled lobster plate and a Ting (a canned, carbonated Jamaican grapefruit soda). There’s nothing better.
If you’re hoping for a more polished lunch, Catherine’s Café, near Falmouth Harbor, is the place to go. While it similarly serves fresh seafood steps from a beach, Catherine’s requires a sundress and sandals, and lunch typically involves two courses and two glasses of rosé. Go with your bathing suit under your clothes to jump off the Pigeon Point Beach dock between courses, enjoy a couple of hours catching up with family and friends, and, if you’re lucky, listen to a local band playing live music throughout your meal. Don’t miss the escargot and catch of the day.
A Hidden Gem:
Don’t miss the Fig Tree Studio Art Gallery. Tucked away in the island’s rainforest, Fig Tree Studio is a small, beautiful gallery that sells local art in many mediums. Most are small enough to hand-carry home and you’ll get a good sense of the island’s vibrant artist community when there.
Explore the Market:
On Saturday afternoons, there is a local market in St. John’s, the island’s capital. Walk through the city’s winding streets and stop to purchase locally grown fruit and vegetables from the many stands.
Do If You Dare:
40knots is well-known for its fantastic kite and windsurfing lessons designed for all skill levels. Lessons take place off of Green Island in Nonsuch Bay where the water is calm and free of reefs, but the wind is blowing. It’s a kitesurfing destination for those who love the sport.
Go after sunset to Famous Mauro’s. This pizzeria has a wood-fired oven and a large outdoor deck on which to enjoy your personal pie. It’s casual and delicious.
Sunday is the night to go out in Antigua. All visitors should go to Shirley Heights on Sunday evenings to watch the sunset over English Harbor. It is the most beautiful view and on Sundays, steel drum bands, local craftsmen, and a bar are open and on-site to make the evening a party. After a rum punch or two, the crowd usually begins dancing. The atmosphere is lighthearted and joyous with everyone living in and loving the moment. Go to the Road House for late night drinking and dancing.
Where to Stay:
Jumby Bay is on its own, private island, just a short boat ride off of Antigua’s north coast, and Curtain Bluff is located close to the rainforest as well as English and Falmouth Harbors off of the island’s south coast. Both offer water sports, tennis courts, and unbeatable beaches. You can’t go wrong.
Know Before You Go:
Never be deterred by rain in the forecast. As is the same with many islands, rain in Antigua likely means a passing shower with sun on the other side.