After a minute's silence in memory of former captain Jerry Collins, whose death in a car crash at the age of 34 was confirmed earlier on Friday, the Hurricanes ran in four tries in the first half and another four after the break.
The victory means they will skip the first weekend of the playoffs and host a semi-final on June 26th or 27th - a fixture few sides will fancy on the evidence of their latest display.
The Highlanders were already assured of a playoff spot.
Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara scored two tries to take his season tally to a Super Rugby-leading 10 and there were also scores for hooker Dane Coles, flanker Blade Thomson, fullback James Marshall and winger Julian Savea.
Centre Ma'a Nonu crossed twice in three minutes towards the end of the match, gesturing to the sky above McLean Park after the first in the 70th minute in apparent tribute to his friend and former team mate Collins.
All Black Beauden Barrett slotted back in at flyhalf after more than a month on the sidelines with a knee injury and winger Nehe Milner-Skudder had another impressive match, particularly the burst and offload that set up Thomson for the opening try.
Highlanders winger Ryan Tongia scored a try and created another for Lima Sopoaga four minutes later with a superbly executed up-and-under.
Fullback Marty Banks also crossed for the visitors but they trailed 30-13 at halftime and never looked like overhauling the deficit.
Rested All Blacks Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa will be back for their final match of the regular season against the Auckland Blues next Friday and the playoffs. – Reuters
Original source: Hurricanes demolish Highlanders