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Marigot, Rodney, or Soufriere?

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We are two couples in our 50s-60s visiting St. Lucia for this first time this January for one week. After perusing lots of posts and websites, we are confused about whether to base ourselves in Marigot Bay, Rodney Bay, or Soufriere (or a combination). We have a limited budget ($200 nite for 2, or $400 nite if we share a 2 br/2 bath property), and would prefer not to rent a car. Although we're obviously tourists, we prefer a more local feel, i.e., no huge resorts, US-style shops/restaurants, etc, yet would like to be walking distance to good local restaurants, shops, etc. We would also like easy access to a nice beach and other parts of the island for day trips.

Marigot Bay has lots of good options and is in between Rodney Bay and Soufriere for day trips, but I read posts about the beach not being great for swimming and difficulty getting to other areas. Is this correct? We love the idea of water taxis, if this is a viable option. What is the approximate cost of a water taxi ride and are they readily available?

Are there areas of Rodney Bay that are less touristy than others that we should consider?

Any suggestions for Soufriere that fit our budget and would give us easy access to a beautiful beach? Would we need a car in Soufriere to explore the area?

To complicate things further, we saw sailing charters from Oasis Marigot Sailing that look amazing, and would consider throwing that into the mix for day or two.

Thanks for any thoughts/insights!

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