On a hill overlooking the Río San Juan you'll find Grand River Lodge, one of the few backpacker-orientated places on the river and a great place to experience Nicaraguan rural life. It is run by affable local and veteran cruise-ship employee, Marvin, who has converted his family farm into a rural lodge with 11 simple thatched-roof huts with private bathrooms.
Prices include free use of kayaks and canoes and the friendly staff organize plenty of activities to keep clients occupied, including treks to see resident monkeys, horseback riding and artisanal cheese-making workshops. It also runs a cacao tour (US$5) beginning in the plantation beside the lodge and a massive swimming pool is in the works. Tasty and filling meals (including a beverage US$4.50 to US$6.50) are served in the rustic bar-restaurant.
It also offers cheap secure parking for those heading down river by boat. The lodge is 2km from the village and can be reached by boat or bus, just let the driver know where to drop you.