@jlc3: i have been to cuba 10+ times. i have been to the brisas guardalavaca and it was ok 13 years ago. i probably wouldn’t go back there. it would be too old now.
i strongly suggest a newer resort. it’s cleaner, fresher, better restaurants, beds and linens aren’t overused, etc.
hotels in cuba are rated very differently than what you would expect in canada or usa. i wouldn’t even consider anything less than a 4 star in cuba. typically the rooms are very basic and modest.
i checked out the resorts that you had listed and personally, i would only go to the iberostar laguna azul. i have been to varedero and to iberostar properties. both great.
the holguin properties are both very old. the brisas opened in the 90’s and the riu opened around 2000 and has changed names 3x already, recently to riu. it looked very familiar and with more research, it was the resort that i was thinking of. i remember it being built.
the varedero properties are both iberostar but i would pick the 5 star over the 4 star not to mention it’s newer. the laguna azul is the 5 star and only opened in 2009. the playa almeda is 4 star and is 8+ years old. the rooms look nicer in the laguna azul as well.
also, the varedero properties are very close to the airport whereas the other resorts require a long bus ride. in varedero, you can even take public transit into town, just a short city bus ride.
i know that these hotels don’t sound old but in the caribbean buildings and finishings don’t hold up like they do in canada. they are not built the same and they take a huge beating from the natural elements (salt, sand, wind, humidity, etc). trust me, i know from personal experience.
if you have any other questions, please feel free to pm me.