Snow falls on the crowd gathered at the base of the Montage's Christmas tree seconds after the lights came on during the annual Montage Resort Christmas tree lighting ceremony Monday. (DON LEACH, Coastline Pilot / November 27, 2012)

Only in Laguna do carolers compete with the sounds of the waves, children sit on Santa's lap as the sun sets over the Pacific and holiday-goers need nothing more than a light sweater in the snow.

Montage Laguna Beach celebrated its third annual Holiday Tree Lighting and Community Open House on Monday evening with live music, warm drinks and, of course, a visit from Santa.

"I thought it was beautiful — a California Christmas," said Laura Orlich, of Tucson, who was visiting family. "It just really kicks off the holiday season in a really nice way."

Guests got a sneak peek of what the Montage offers with different stations set up throughout the hotel. In the Studio Restaurants, guests enjoyed eggnog and food, while in Spa Montage there were mini massages and sparkling cider, and the Loft Alcove featured a gingerbread house modeled after the hotel.

As the sun was setting, children lined up to sit on Santa's lap, watched a Christmas movie playing outside or ran around the lawn while parents mingled and sipped hot cocoa and other drinks.

With the sun finally set, Montage General Manager Todd Orlich came out for the tree lighting, but not without a surprise.

Orlich, along with members of the Hearts of Montage, a philanthropic organization made up of hotel employees, brought up representatives from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a local nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals.

"We're inspired by what they do and we would like to do a little giving tonight," Orlich said.

He presented Pacific Marine Mammal Center Board of Director President Jeff Brumett with a $5,000 check.

"We're very excited for 5,000 pounds of fish," Brumett said.

Guests counted down from 10 as the lights went out and the tree was finally lit as snow blew on the crowd.

For Laura Orlich's husband, Gary, the event exceeded his expectations and he said he would absolutely come back.

"It couldn't be a nicer evening," he said. "What a lovely outreach to the community."

britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes