In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, melt sugar, stirring frequently, until liquefied and golden in color. Be careful not to overcook. Quickly transfer hot liquid to eight (8) ramekins (for individual servings) or to a 9-inch round baking dish (for a pie-like serving). Add enough caramel to coat the bottom and you may need to swivel your serving dish to help the caramel along. Set aside to cool.
While the caramel cools, add the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, and vanilla to a bowl and beat ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. Use a colander to sift mixture into a pitcher or 2-quart measuring glass. Set aside.
Transfer ramekins or round to a 3-inch deep baking pan. Pour mix into round or each ramekin. Pour water into the 3-inch deep baking pan until it is aligned with the liquid of the egg mixture. Be careful not to pour any water into the egg mixture.
Carefully, put tray in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle can stand on its own.
After removing the tray from the oven, use oven mitts to take the flan out of the water in order to stop the cooking process. Allow to cool to on a wire rack to room temperature. Wrap in cellophane and refrigerate until cooled completely.
To serve, remove cellophane, cut along the edge of the flan, and invert onto serving tray or plate. If desired, top with shredded coconut.