It's only about a three hour drive. We've never stopped for anything other than a quick meal. You'd want to be able to keep your eyes on the vehicle during any stop, since it will have all your belongings in it. What time are you landing?
Honestly that makes no sense...11AM...get car ...start driving maybe 12:00 to 1:00 and arrive about 4:30 give or take which should be a normal time for check in. We did take a nice road around the lake (a detour off the main drag) that provided some great views but really just drive to your hotel.
Yup, you're lucky to land at 11. That allows you to make it there without rushing at all.
cj1010, Re the time to exit the airport, get to the car rental office, check the vehicle and the paperwork and when to expect to be on the Rd toward Arenal/La Fortuna Area - check the recent post from the TA member re the immigration line at SJO - https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g291982-i813-k13469163-SJO_backed_up_immigration_Jan_20-Costa_Rica.html . Have Plan B, as you might be out fast (land at 11 and "start driving at 12"?), or not.
I go to SJO and LIR ery often...if all your travel documents are OK...you can wspend maybe from 30 to 40 minutes ...at least that is what Im seeing...yesterday was only 30 minutes to clear customd etc, for a family of 8 !!
That may give you some kind of idea,,,lets all be positive...that is the way to live !!
@2, cj, whether one's own docs are OK or not will not be a determining factor, if you are stuck in a long slow line.
"Here's a tip: don't get in a line behind a family with children. It was taking 20-30 minutes to process the families." (https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g291982-i813-k13469163-SJO_backed_up_immigration_Jan_20-Costa_Rica.html trip report from Jan. 20).
The other thing no one's mentioned is that there really isn't much of anything that's an option as a layover halfway between SJO and Arenal. You drive through a cloud forest in a really isolated area. The options I can think of include the Villa Blanca Cloudforest Hotel or Lands in Love Resort. I do however, agree with others that you have plenty of time to drive to Arenal and that would be a better choice. https://www.villablanca-costarica.com/ https://landsinlove.com/
If you are concerned about lack of sleep after an overnight flight you could also look at Atenas which is only 30 minutes west of the airport but has a charming B&B overlooking the central valley with comfortable beds and a small pool. Then head out the next morning. http://www.vistaatenasbnb.com/