The subterranean flow of water through sand barriers between coastal lagoons and the sea, driven by a positive hydraulic gradient, is a net new pathway for solute transfer to the sea. On the sea side of sand barriers, seawater circulation in the swash-zone generates a flux of recycled and new solutes. The significance and temporal variability of these vectors to the French Mediterranean Sea is unknown, despite lagoons constituting ~ 50% of the coastline. A one-dimensional 224Raex/223Ra reactive-transport model was used to quantify water flow between a coastal lagoon (La Palme) and the sea over a 6-month period. Horizontal flow between the lagoon and sea decreased from ~ 85 cm d−1 during May 2017 (0.3 m3 d−1 m−1 of shoreline) to ~ 20 cm d−1 in July and was negligible in the summer months thereafter due to a decreasing hydraulic gradient. Seawater circulation in the swash-zone varied from 10 to 52 cm d−1 (0.4–2.1 m3 d−1 m−1), driven by short-term changes in the prevailing wind and wave regimes. Both flow paths supply minor dissolved silica fluxes on the order of ~ 3–10 mmol Si d−1 m−1. Lagoon–sea water exchange supplies a net dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) flux (320–1100 mmol C d−1 m−1) two orders of magnitude greater than seawater circulation and may impact coastal ocean acidification. The subterranean flow of water through sand barriers represents a significant source of new DIC, and potentially other solutes, to the Mediterranean Sea during high lagoon water-level periods and should be considered in seasonal element budgets.