Millennial couple wins Airbnb contest and builds floating coconut home in Malaysia


A floating coconut home in Tanjong Rhu in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Coconest Langkawi

  • A millennial couple spent 7 months building a floating coconut home in Langkawi, Malaysia.
  • Hakim Azly and his wife Reena Sayra are one of the 100 winners of Airbnb’s OMG Fund contest.
  • Visitors can book a one-night stay at the floating coconut home on Airbnb for $135 a night.

Floating in the middle of mangrove forests near Tanjung Rhu Beach in Langkawi, Malaysia, is a one-bedroom home shaped like a coconut.

The brainchild of Hakim Azly, 34, and his wife Reena Sayra, 33, the inspiration behind the house is as literal as it gets.

“One day, we were walking down the beach when we saw a coconut floating on the water, and we thought to ourselves, ‘How cool would it be to build something like that?'” Azly, an architect, told Business Insider.

The couple lives in Langkawi with their young child. Langkawi — a cluster of tropical islands in the Andaman Sea — is about a one-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.

Hakim Azly and Reena Sayra.
Coconest Langkawi

The couple’s floating coconut home is one of the 100 recipients of Airbnb’s OMG Fund.

In 2022, Airbnb held a competition that would award 100 people $100,000 each to build quirky, short-term vacation rentals for the platform.

“Winning the competition accelerated our launch and construction timeline,” Azly said. “But in reality, we wanted to build this no matter what. It was just going to take a longer time and be funded by ourselves.”

According to the rules of the contest, winners have to use the prize money for the sole purpose of building or remodeling the space, which will be listed for rent on the Airbnb platform.

Winners are also forbidden from listing the home on other short-term rental platforms for a year.

First things first, a fish farming license

The base of the floating coconut home and wraparound deck.
Coconest Langkawi

As the couple found out, building a floating home isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

“One of the things we learned is that there’s not one building that we go to say, ‘Hey, what do we need to make this work?'” Azly said. “We have to go to every government agency and ask them whether we need something from them or not.”

In Langkawi, the couple learned they needed a fish farming license to operate something floating on the water.

“As a result, we needed to take care of fish and make sure that we actually have a fish farm first,” Azly said.

The main structure of the floating coconut home being constructed.
Coconest Langkawi

Only then were they allowed to build the floating home, which had to be attached to the farm, he said.

Weather-resistant building materials were a must

The project’s next step was to build the floating platform, followed by the main dome structure of the house and the deck.

After considering materials such as metal and bamboo, the couple eventually decided to build the dome out of fiberglass, Azly said

The couple standing in front of their half-completed floating coconut Airbnb.
Coconest Langkawi

“We understood our site to be salt water, so metal was out of the box. We also wanted to make sure that the structure was secure and could last decades, but we were worried that bamboo would rot over time,” Azly said.

He added that the fiberglass structure was then covered in thatch to mimic a coconut’s outer husk.

“We looked at using real leaves, but we were worried about flammability risks,” Azly said.

Workers helping to cover the dome with thatch to mimic the husk of a coconut.
Coconest Langkawi

Funded by the Airbnb competition

As a winner of the Airbnb OMG Fund competition, Azly and his wife received $100,000 to fund their build.

Airbnb disburses the amount in three phases, depending on the construction milestones that were hit, Azly said.

The interiors of the floating home during construction.
Coconest Langkawi

“We have to show them receipts about everything that we spent on the project and photos to prove that we’re on target to meet their August 1st open date,” Azly said.

However, Azly says that they exceeded the budget by about $10,000, and had to pay for the excess out of their pocket.

The couple started working on the project just after Christmas in 2022, and it took them seven months to get the floating coconut home ready.

An aerial image of the floating coconut home. It is attached to a floating platform that hosts a fish farm.
Coconest Langkawi

One bedroom, one bathroom

The resulting floating coconut home — a homage to Langkawi being a tropical island — has one bedroom, one bathroom, and a wraparound deck.

The home is attached to a floating platform that houses the couple’s fish farm, campsite, and watersports activity center.

The completed floating coconut home.
Coconest Langkawi

Guests have to take a specially arranged five-minute shuttle boat from the mainland to get to the platform, Azly said.

If there are no bookings for the campsite, all guests staying in the floating coconut house are free to roam the entire platform, he said.

Guests can also book guided paddleboard or catamaran water bike tours from the watersports activity center that the couple manages.

The bedroom in the floating coconut house comes with one queen bed.
Coconest Langkawi

The most challenging part of the project was trying to build the structure while being at the mercy of the weather and the tide, Azly said.

“The tide is going up and down every day and it’s pulling in and out. So the structure is moving laterally, and we were also trying to build it before the monsoon season,” he said.

Their priority was trying to enclose the structure before the rainy season started, he added. Langkawi tends to experience higher rainfall from April to October.

A relaxing vacation stay

The floating coconut house, which the couple named Coconest, is available for rent on Airbnb. Visitors can book a stay for $135 per night.

The completed desk area in the floating coconut house.
Coconest Langkawi

The floating house currently has a 4.98-star rating based on 46 reviews since it opened in August.

Azly says that about 80% of their guests come from neighboring Malaysian cities, while international tourists make up the remaining 20%.

“It’s more like a chill, leisurely, romantic kind of getaway. And that’s the type of people we attract,” he said.

Holidaymakers aside, the coconut home has also caught the attention of prominent local figures.

In September, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad even paid the couple and their coconut home a visit.

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Peace and quiet all around

“The best part of the stay is the tranquility of it,” Azly said. “We advertise it as glamping, not a resort.”

The couple encourages guests to bring groceries and provides them with cooking equipment.

“It’s peaceful, and you’re really only surrounded by water and nature,” Azly said.

The couple encourages guests to bring groceries so they can cook and enjoy a meal on the wraparound deck.
Coconest Langkawi

More floating coconut homes in the future

The couple plans to build two more coconut homes on the platform.

“Three is the perfect number so that we don’t disturb the tranquility and the beauty of the space,” Azly said, adding that they plan to start construction in the next six to eight months.

In addition, they are also hoping to use their floating platform to promote coral conservation.

“We’re trying to connect with a university here that has a biology and a conservation kind of educational component, and then basically allow them to use our facilities to learn and plant more corals,” Azly said.

They also want to start nurseries where they can host educational activities for people — including Airbnb guests — to plant corals.

The couple plans to build two more floating coconut homes in the future.
Coconest Langkawi

Azly adds that his wife is from the area, and has always wanted to bring visibility to this part of Langkawi.

“Most people come to Langkawi and they go to Cenang, where it’s all the night activities and things like that,” he said. In contrast, Tanjong Rhu is an area that people are not as aware of since it’s on the other side of the island, he continued.

“Our goal is to attract people here while at the same time making sure that we maintain the beauty of the landscape,” he added.

Have you recently bought or renovated your dream home and want to share the details and photos of the process? Email this reporter, Amanda Goh, at agoh@businessinsider.com.



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