My wife and I have been to Big Sur several times in the last 7 years. It's been 3.5 years, so it's time to plan another :) We took our boys with us briefly and hit highlights in route to another destination for a day or so in 2006. We came back in 2008 (during the big fire) and 2010 (rainstorm in April), just my wife and I and did a bit more by ourselves each time. This time bringing the kids back to do some things (a little more "off the map") they missed before. They will be 11 and 15 when we go next. We will fly into San Jose late on a Sunday and stay nearby, grab a convertible the next morning and take 101 to get there quicker (unless a better route or reason not to?) Would like to stay a few days down South (Cambria?) We stayed at Bluebird Inn before, and take the kids to Hearst Castle. Want to stay a few days in Central area (Treebones or other cheap cabins?) and then a few days back up North of Big Sur to close it out. That way we can break each section up and explore certain parts methodically. We have done Point Lobos (eh) ... Thinking about doing the Point Sur lighthouse tour (if it's recommended)...Want to take them by Nepenthe, Sand Dollar Beach, McWay falls, Pfeiffer beach, (we've done those) and also do some hikes - we aren't terribly experienced, but have done some hiking (5 mile hikes) here in Texas, but we want to try and find ones that don't take more than an hour or so to get to the "payoff/view" with not too steep of inclines, etc. This is one thing we have not done much of in Big Sur, and hope for some input here. Would one of the maps or Big Sur hiking guides from Amazon be worth the money?
The main goal is enjoy the redwoods, beaches and views (mostly hidden gems and off the beaten path stuff) tips on hidden mountain or beach roads/limited access beaches? Like to do drives or beaches the locals know about, not crazy about huge crowds but can handle it from time to time..., lots of photography, driving with the top down, and don't want to spend much money on lodging since we don't plan to stay in the room except to sleep or shower. Thoughts?