Brisas Guardalavaca Holguin Cuba Resort Review
I recently visited Holguin, Cuba, and stayed at the Brisas Guardalavaca Resort Hotel. For those who do not know, the three biggest cities in Cuba are Havana, Varadero, and Holguin. I spent a lot of time contemplating where I would go in Cuba. After reading a lot of reviews about the pros and cons of different areas and different hotels, we chose Brisas on Guardalavaca Beach in Holguin. I have to say that Brisas really exceeded my expectations.
The resort is located on Guardalavaca beach, approximately one hour from the Holguin international airport. Many people wrote horror stories about having to commute to their resort for over three hours on non air conditioned buses. We were lucky to be greeted by a Hola Sun rep, who had a new coach bus escort us to the resort. The seats were comfy, there was air conditioning, and they gave us some information about Cuba and the area along the way.
We arrived at the hotel about an hour later, and were greeted by a sizeable line up. You would think that the hotel would have more than one person working at the reception desk when they expect about 20 + check ins late at night. We arrived in Cuba at 8:30 p.m., but by the time we collected our luggage and got to the resort, it was about 11 p.m. Once we got to the desk, check in was seamless. Our room was nicely cooled. We had no problems with air conditioning or musty smells. We had a standard hotel room which was more than sufficient for our needs. For those who needed a bit more space, the resort offers a “Villa” section, which is basically a small house and they are scattered across the property. I’ll mention More on this later.
The resort itself was spotless. I was expecting it to be a little bit old, grungy, and dirty. This place was immaculate. There were people buffing the marble floors, cleaning up tables, gardening, cleaning up the pool area and working on the property at all times. It was insane. The hotel looked like it just had a new paint job applied to it the week before we got there. The resort must be at least ten years old, but looked relatively new due to the paint and the constant maintenance. I was extremely impressed. The grounds were nice, but the best part was the ocean. Brisas sits right on the beach. We could literally walk from our room to the gorgeous white sand beach in under one minute. The water was crystal clear baby blue, with no seaweed or sharp shells to cut your feet. The water was gorgeous and so warm. It was paradise!
There were two large pools, one in the hotel area and one weaving throughout the villas. There was a small white gazebo for beach weddings. The resort offered two tennis courts, pool tables and ping pong, bike and scooter rentals, volleyball, water polo, and much much more. We had access to kayaks, canoes, windsurfing, and paddle boats all for free. There were tons of shows, live music and activities daily. You could never be bored at a resort like this. Compared to luxury cruise lines, some of the shows were lacking, but they had several excellent performances. The most intriguing show was the “aqua ballet”, where a group from Holguin performed ballet and other feats of acrobatics in the pool. It was quite entertaining!
The resort is an “all inclusive”. That means that all of the food and drinks are free all of the time. There are 6 a la carte restaurants on the property, which you need to book in advance. The girl doing the bookings did not seem inclined to book anyone into the restaurants, as they always seemed half empty, and yet she said they were all booked up. There was a buffet with set hours, and a grill which was open 24 hours a day. My one gripe was the food. The quality wasn’t bad, but the selection was poor. The buffet was pretty much the same thing every day and wasn’t open long enough for certain seatings. Several times we were hungry and needed to eat pizza or burgers and fries at the grill. I enjoy those things, but they aren’t healthy options and we grew tired of it.
I’ve read horror stories about people getting sick from the water, or ice cubes or the food, but that did not happen to us. Everything was perfectly safe and we were never worried about eating or drinking anything provided to us. While the food was not great, it wasn’t terrible, there was plenty of variety, and there was always something to eat at any time of the day.
Most of the employees were generally very friendly and obliging. Some were not, and preferred the Spanish speaking guests over us. If you are a generous tipper you will be treated extremely well. Cubans seem to be very laid back and friendly people. If you are impatient, you may get aggravated at times with the laid back nature of the service staff, but try to remember you are on vacation and to relax and take it easy.
My biggest complaint about Brisas is also one of its advantages. They are constantly fixing the place up and working on it. That is a great thing in regards to keeping the property beautiful, but they were making tons of noise like drilling and mowing the lawn at 9 a.m. and that is not what people want when they are on their holidays. I didn’t complain to the front desk but I should have.
Overall I would recommend Brisas to anyone looking to go and relax in paradise. The beach is breathtaking. The resort is beautiful. Stay in a Villa and it will be much quieter than it was for us. If you are not a picky person when it comes to food, you will always find something good to eat. Remember, the food won’t be as good as it is on a luxury cruise line or in a Vegas buffet, but it is sufficient and plentiful. Check out Holguin, and go to Brisas. Guardalavaca beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.