A real-time acoustic technique to characterize microbubbles produced by laser-induced optical breakdown (LIOB) in water was developed. Femtosecond laser pulses are focused just inside the surface of a small liquid tank. A tightly focused, high frequency, single-element ultrasonic transducer is positioned so its focus coincides axially and laterally with this laser focus. When optical breakdown occurs, a bubble forms and a pressure wave is emitted (i.e., acoustic emission). In addition to this acoustic signal, the microbubble is actively probed with pulse-echo measurements from the same transducer. After the bubble forms, received pulse-echo signals have an extra pulse, describing the bubble location and providing a measure of axial bubble size. Wavefield plots of successive recordings illustrate the generation, growth, and collapse of cavitation bubbles due to optical breakdown. These same plots also can be used to quantify LIOB thresholds.