The area around the town was given the name "Valparaíso" by Christopher Columbus after landing here on December 6, 1492, and still contains many attractive beaches and locations. A ferry operates between the town and Tortuga Island (La Tortue) situated just across the water.
The town was founded in 1665 by French flibustiers, driven from Tortuga Island by the British occupiers. In 1676 the capital of the French Colony of Saint-Domingue was moved from Tortuga to Port-de-Paix, and it remained the seat of government until 1711 when the capital was moved to Cap Français. In 1679 the town saw the first black slave revolt. The area saw great success during the 19th century but in 1802 the town was almost entirely destroyed by fire, and never attained its former status.