Phase-change contrast agents consisting of a perfluorocarbon (PFC) liquid core stabilized by a lipid, protein, or polymer shell have been proposed for a variety of clinical applications. Previous work has demonstrated that vaporization can be induced by laser irradiation through optical absorbers incorporated inside the droplet. In this study, Poly-lactide-coglycolic acid (PLGA) particles loaded with PFC liquid and silica-coated gold nanoparticles (GNPs) were developed and characterized using photoacoustic (PA) methods. Microsized PLGA particles were loaded with PFC liquid and GNPs (14, 35, 55nm each with a 20nm silica shell) using a double emulsion method. The PA signal intensity and optical vaporization threshold were investigated using a 375 MHz transducer and a focused 532-nm laser (up to 450-nJ per pulse). The laser-induced vaporization threshold energy decreased with increasing GNP size. The vaporization threshold was 850, 690 and 420 mJ/cm2 for 5μm-sized PLGA particles loaded with 14, 35 and 55 nm GNPs, respectively. The PA signal intensity increased as the laser fluence increased prior to the vaporization event. This trend was observed for all particles sizes. PLGA particles were then incubated with MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells for 6 hours to investigate passive targeting, and the vaporization of the PLGA particles that were internalized within cells. The PLGA particles passively internalized by MDA cells were visualized via confocal fluorescence imaging. Upon PLGA particle vaporization, bubbles formed inside the cells resulting in cell destruction. This work demonstrates that GNPs-loaded PLGA/PFC particles have potential as PA theranostic agents in PA imaging and optically-triggered drug delivery systems.