Alrighty, as mentioned in my last post we stayed at the beautiful, all-inclusive Brisas Guardalavaca outside of Holguin, Cuba. Here is a map if you are unfamiliar where the Holguin region of Cuba is (I was).
Way down at the bottom right. As you can see it’s at the opposite side of the country from Havana. I would looove to visit Havana sometime and do the whole Hemingway tour and see legit Cuban city city, but I think it was about an eight hour drive from where we were, so, next time. Where we stayed was pretty cool also. Guardalavaca is about an hour from Holguin city, where our plane landed, and the bus ride to the resort was basically a bus tour. I could not stop looking out the window (more on the way home as we arrived in the dark).
Just such a different way of life. It’s fascinating.
Brisas Guardalavaca seems to be the kind of resort that people go to once and then keep coming back.
We had people in our group that were returning for their 8th time (and staying two weeks, lucky duckies), and I mentioned that Brotherman and Kelly were returning for their third time. I think because Cuban resorts can be hit or miss, especially in the food department, when you find somewhere you like you stick with it. I understand that mentality but I like trying new places so I think it will be a few years before I go back to Cuba, and when I do I think I would do closer to Havana, just to check it out. And speaking of food, our resort food was fine. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad (and I have heard horror stories about Cuban food). It was fresh and I could always find something I liked, though it wasn’t anything to write home about. But I sure will write an entire blog post about it!
The lobby was pretty (though a bit dated) and had live plants hanging around.
And it was open to the pool and beach area beyond.
Lots of wood everywhere, throughout all the corridors and at the entranceway in our room, which gave the hotel kind of a cruise ship feel.
I actually do not have any pictures of our room, but it looked exactly like this:
Pretty standard. Definitely dated and not fancy in the least, but it was clean and comfortable. We did not spend a lot of time in our room anyway. My only complaint is that there were two double beds instead of a King, so we pushed them together and pretty much just slept on one. I did wake up and find myself in the crack between the beds a few nights, but it was no big D.
But the view from our balcony was AMAZING.
Our hotel had two areas, the hotel section and the villa section. You could use the amenities of both from either section, and the entire resort was not huge so everything was very easy and quick to get to. One thing I will say about the hotel section was that it was loud (villa section is quieter, and the rooms are a bit nicer and a LOT bigger). Our oceanview room faced the entertainment stage and the beach bar, and the entertainment usually went until about 11pm and obviously people were partying until all hours. It honestly did not bother Evan and I at all and actually I liked it because we could watch the entertainment directly from our balcony if we decided to have an early-ish night.
So that was handy. But most often we watched it from the beach chairs beside the pool.
If you are a light sleeper then people yelling at 3am may bother you but for the most part I didn’t notice. I DID notice an interesting “OO-AH! OO-AH!” sound at 6:30am on our very first morning there and Evan and I were both like “WTF is that?” I thought it was some kind of exotic bird, but later found out it was Roberto who makes the pizza in the snack bar beside the pool. I found this out because he made that sound all day long whenever someone he knew walked by (older ladies in particular, and they loved it) and you could hear him from pretty much wherever you were on the resort. It was like his mating call. It kind of became the soundtrack to our vacation. That and Chan Chan.
We tipped our maid well and she was really great. We had a new towel animal every day we were there!
But we spent most of our time outside, so let’s get to that. We were on the top (fourth) floor and just outside of our room were outdoor stairs to get down to the pool, as well as a lookout over the water and Guardalavaca countryside.
It was fun to watch the road from there because there always seemed to be things happening on the road, and a lot of old cars driving by.
The beach, as I mentioned, was incredible.
(the Porpoise showering with the porpoise)
You could rent snorkel equipment (for free) from a hut on the side of the beach, so we did that and went on a beach snorkel adventure.
It wasn’t crazy fantastic or anything but it was decent. There were a few sea urchins, but the nice ones, not the scary black spindly ones.
You could also rent a car paddleboat for free and take that around the shoreline.
Evan and I did that also and paddled it further away from the resort where the snorkeling was a bit better.
We found a coral reef, which was definitely dead but still pretty awesome to explore.
And we saw some colourful fish, so I was happy to at see a least a few because our big snorkeling trip got canceled due to weather (more about that later).
There were two big pools at the resort, the main pool that our hotel room looked onto…
Which had a swim up bar!
And the full bar and the snack bar were just off that pool.
Which were both open 24 hours a day, but I will talk more about that in my food post.
We spent more time in the pool over on the villa side, which was a bit quieter than the main pool.
And also had a full-sized bar and a swim-up bar.
My favourite bar though was the Havana Club. It was right beside Brotherman and Kelly’s room, so we would often all meet there for a drink before dinner after we were all showered and ready.
They only served Havana Club rum, but I liked it so that was alllllright with me!
I loved that the Havana Club had a panoramic view of the resort and the surrounding area.
It was a great lookout spot.
The resort was incredibly scenic. You could walk along the beach over to a tourist-y market on the far side (the market was after another resort called Club Amigo) and the walk itself was a beautiful adventure.
And there were other fun things around, like the Tea Garden, which we did not really visit, just took photos around…
And a John Lennon garden, apparently some sort of symbol of peace…
You can see the write up for the reasons why here. I’d paraphrase but I don’t really know what it’s going on about.
The entertainment was absolutely fantastic.
There was usually a different band playing every night, followed by a show. The water ballet was seriously amazing. We were all in awe. My camera did not get any decent pictures, but if you click here you can kind of get an idea of what it was like.
And there were some interesting critters around, like crabs, fat lizards…
Which you would expect, but there were also a few resort dogs kicking around.
This one was sooo friendly and nice. He came over and sat beside me for about half an hour when we were at the beach bar one evening. I don’t really know where he’s been, but I couldn’t resist petting him. He was just a little muffin.
And I could not resist mildly harassing this cat!
I think she lived on the resort also, and I have to say I don’t think I’d mind being a resort cat. She would set up shop right outside the main buffet every evening so I brought her fish a couple of times and I basically made a new best friend. I noticed people did this a lot. She was well fed, that is for sure.
So now you have a bit of a background on the area and resort we stayed at and I can get to the shenanigans. Dolphin swimming and our catamaran adventure are up next